Missouri Motorcycle Laws

While motorcycles are relatively inexpensive, convenient, and entertaining mode of transportation, they can result in a serious injury or death if used improperly. If you’re operating a motorcycle, it’s critical to follow all local, state, and federal laws as well as common sense safety precautions.

Use our guide from attorney Gonzalo Fernandez to understand Missouri motorcycle laws.

Motorcycle Licensing in Missouri 

Missouri law requires motorcycle operators to acquire a Class M motorcycle license or a driver’s license with an M endorsement to operate a motorcycle on public roadways. The license requires both a written knowledge test and an on-motorcycle skills test. Both exams test drivers’ understanding of road rules and safety procedures. 

If an applicant is under 15 ½, they may acquire an instructional permit by completing a motorcycle rider training course (MRTC) and pass the Class F and M vision, road sign, and written exams and have written permission from a parent or legal guardian. 

Riders over 16 but under 18 do not have to take a MRTC, but must pass the class M exam to obtain an instructional permit.

Motorcycle riders under 16 must follow the following restrictions:

  • Only ride during the daylight
  • Have no passengers 
  • Ride 50 miles from their home address
  • Operate the engine with a displacement lower than 250 cc

Riders under 18 must follow the graduate drivers license requirements.

Missouri Motorcycle Helmet Laws

In July 2020, Missouri Governor Mike Parson signed a law that waived the motorcycle helmet requirement for riders over the age of 26, which went into effect August 28, 2020. The law requires riders who don’t wear a helmet to have health insurance and does not apply to those with a permit. 

A year after the law passed, Missouri saw a 40% increase in motorcycle fatalities, with an 800% increase in year-over-years deaths for those not wearing a helmet. 

Therefore, it’s recommended that all riders continue to wear a helmet when operating a motorcycle. 

A helmet should:

  • Fit snugly
  • Meet DOT standards
  • Be damage-free

Other recommended gear includes:

  • Face and eye protection that’s secure and clear
  • Jacket and pants
  • Boots or sturdy shoes
  • Gloves

Rules of the Road

Like operating a vehicle, Missouri requires motorcycle drivers to follow a set of rules while riding on public roads.

Some guidelines include:

  • The motorcycle should have headlights/tail lights/break lights, front and rear breaks, turn signals, a horn, a two mirrors
  • Follow posted speed limits
  • Keep a safe distance from vehicles and other motorcycles
  • Signal to other drivers when changing lanes or turning
  • Avoid lane sharing
  • Reduce speed when approaching an intersection
  • Frequently use mirrors, including when you’re stopping or slowing down
  • Take extra precautions – including reducing speed and using high beams – when operating at night
  • Avoid quick stops and turns
  • Practice extra precautions on slick roads
  • Avoid texting while driving

Drinking and Operating a Motorcycle

Alcohol severely impacts a driver’s ability to operate a motorcycle, increasing the risk of injuring or killing yourself or others.

Missouri follows the same drinking and driving laws for motorcycle operators as vehicle drivers:

  • If you are under 21 and operate a motorcycle with a BAC over .020%, your license will be suspended or revoked
  • If you are over 21 and operate a motorcycle with a BAC over .08%, you could face a fine or license suspension

To keep yourself and others safe, do not drink alcohol and operate a motorcycle

Carrying Passengers and Cargo

The Missouri Department of Revenue advises that only experienced passengers should carry riders or heavy cargo.

Recommended tips for transporting loads include:

  • Fasten the load on a low part of the motorcycle, such as the saddle bag or forward
  • Distribute evenly to avoid imbalance
  • Secure the load tightly with elastic cords and stop your motorcycle occasionally to check it’s still secure 

Riding with passengers means the motorcycle will have a longer reaction time to slowing down and speeding up. Therefore, the following precautions should be taken:

  • Ride slower
  • Slow down earlier
  • Open up a larger buffer of space ahead and to the side

The Missouri State Highway Patrol offers its own guidance for riding a motorcycle with children.

Operating a motorcycle can be dangerous if common-sense precautions are not taken. Therefore, it’s recommended to wear a helmet, follow the rules of the road, and fully understand Missouri motorcycle laws.

Gonzalo Fernandez is a personal injury attorney based in St. Louis. He regularly uses his legal expertise to offer insight on events impacting Missourians. Recent media appearances include the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, CBS St. Louis, Fox 2, and KPLR 11. To speak to Gonzalo, call (314) 433-9131 or email gonz@stltriallawyers.com.

Other Guides to Missouri Laws: