Obtaining a California Driving License

How to obtain a new driver’s license in California??
1. The initial step of getting your Class C DL or real ID is to present all available identification documents you own to the California DMV. This can include:

orget to bring proof of your identity when you go to the California DMV to get your driver's license!
Don’t forget to bring proof of your identity to the DMV!
  • Full name and US SSN
  • US Passport or ID
  • Evidence of California residency by presenting paperwork such as bank statements, utility payment bills, etc.
  • A completed application form (You can fill it out online, in advance)
  • Payment of processing fees (non-refundable)

2.Once you collect all the must-have paperwork, you may begin your application process. Create an account with the California DMV if you are a new driver or simply login in case you already have an account. You may start the application and come back on it later, whenever you want. All the filled-out info is saved on your account. Make sure to read all the instructions and when you finish the application, write down the confirmation number so that you won’t forget.

*Note, that the DMV is aiming toward more paperless applications but for now, you may bring the required paperwork to your local DMV and fill out the form there.

3. Here is why you should visit your local California DMV office:

A vision test is required when getting your California driver's license.
A vision test is required when getting your California driver’s license.
  • Sign your application form
  • Present in-person identity and residency paperwork
  • Pay the processing fees
  • Complete fingerprint check and take a photo
  • Pass all the necessary examinations such as knowledge, vision, and practical driving exams.

Schedule an appointment beforehand to avoid long waits and to ensure you will be serviced on the day you go to the DMV. Prior to passing your knowledge test remember to go over the California DMV handbook or check out these practice tests.

4. You will acquire your driver’s license by mail once all the documents are submitted and you have passed the necessary tests.

Note, if you are an out-of-state driver with a valid DL, the DMV will probably waive your practical driving exam.

To add up, individuals with non-US passports or ID may apply for the limited term DL or full DL in case of the presence of legal documentation.

Individuals who are under 18 or those who apply for the initial driver’s licensure in CA:  Should obtain an instruction permit in order to drive and prepare for practical driving simultaneously.  You need to have a co-driver who is older than 18 and owns a current California driver’s license. People who are between 15 ½ and 18 years old, should get a provisional license if they want to drive legally. In this case, a person’s parent or guardian signs the application form, and the applicant gets enrolled in a driver’s education or training program. Keep in mind that a provisional license holder has strict restrictions such as not being able to drive between 11 pm to 5 am or not having permission to transport passengers who are younger than twenty years unless they are with another driver who is over twenty-five years old and owns a current driver’s license. To get further details about the provisional licensure, check out the official DMV page.

California Driving License Qualifications

What is a California DL?
When you own a valid CA DL, it gives you a permission to operate a vehicle on public roadways all over the state as a resident of California.

Let’s cover when you DON’T need a CA DL:                 

  • Older than eighteen and visiting this state having a current out-of-state or international DL.
  • You are a current military serviceman or dependent stationed in the state with legitimate out-of-state licensure.
  • Drive a farm or off-highway vehicles without the use of public road (except to cross them)
  • Own a diplomatic DL that is issued by the US Department of State.

Now, it’s high time to discuss when you need a CA DL:

Remember that after moving to California to establish a residency, you have 10 days to register as a resident. You can do that by:  

  • Registering as a voter for the CA elections
  • Payment of tuition at the CA state colleges or universities
  • Submitting for a homeowner’s property tax exemption application
  • Applying for any other forms of CA resident benefits or privileges.
Apply for your California driver's license within 10 days of becoming a resident.
Apply for your California driver’s license within 10 days of becoming a resident.

How can I prove my California residency to the DMV?
Now, you should provide proof of your CA residency to the DMV. These documents can involve:

  • Paychecks, W2 forms, or tax returns with an authorized CA employer
  • A lease or rental contract with the legal CA address
  • Utility payment or mortgage mentioning your full name and home address in CA
  • Medical reports or insurance paperwork
  • Credit card/bank statements
  • Real estate deeds/titles or property tax bill/statement
  • Documentation from religious organizations that have a legal CA address
  • A letter of confirmation of voter registration
  • A letter from a non-profit organization or homeless shelter
  • Confirmation from the US Postal Service of change-of-address
  • A court paper showing you as a CA resident
  • Tuition payment from any CA public institution
  • Marriage license, birth certificate, or domestic partner registration form that shows your connection with a CA resident parent, guardian, or spouse.

How to replace or renew my driver’s license in California?

To avoid getting a citation, make sure to renew your valid DL card on time. The expiration date is on your current driver’s license card. It is possible to renew it in person at the DMV office, online or by mail. In case your license is stolen, lost or damaged or if you decide to change the name or gender category, you can complete the relevant form and pay the processing fees to replace it. To get access to all forms and learn further information, make sure to go through the Miscellaneous Licensing Information here

California Driver Exam

How can I set a date for my in-person/written driver tests?
You can schedule a driver’s exam in person at the local DMV. To do so, fill out the appointment date in advance online or call at 1-800-777-0133 during working hours. A written form of the test is a standard multiple choice question examination administered via touch screen terminal when you initially get your instruction permit. Ensure that you have studied the DMV handbook and make sure to read the practical test queries.

You can buy some time by scheduling an appointment with the DMV prior to your practical driving test. 

Save time by making an appointment in advance with the California DMV for your in-person driving test.
Save time by making an appointment in advance with the California DMV for your in-person driving test.

What should I have for an in-person practical driving test?

In case you are required to pass the practical driving exam, the following items will be essential:

  • An instruction permit or your old driver’s license
  • Your car’s registration documents and proof of insurance coverage
  • Accompanying driver who is older than 18 and has a current driver’s license in California

The following things will be inspected in the car you bring:

  • Brake lights, turn signals, horn, parking brake,
  • Tires that have at least 1/32-inch tread depth in grooves
  • Clear view out the windshield
  • Driver’s side window that can roll down
  • No less than two rear-view mirrors (one of which is on the left outside the car)
  • Functional seat belts (You should use yours during the exam)

Additional Helpful Details:

You can utilize a rental car; however, the rental contract should state you as a driver and include permission to be used for the driving tests. In the vehicle, no extra passengers or pets are allowed, exclusively the DMV examiner or other legit personnel. You shouldn’t rely on cheat sheets, electronic devices, or driver handbooks for the consultation during your test. In addition to these, do not solely rely on backup cameras or self-parking technologies while you are on the test. Remember that you should also take a vision test so don’t forget to bring your glasses or contact lenses if it’s necessary.

Types of Licenses for California Drivers

What are the conditions of a standard CA driver’s license?

The standard Class C DL in California allows you to operate basic passenger cars, trucks, or vans that have:

  • 2-axles and weigh 26,000 pounds or less
  • 3 axles and weigh 6,000 pounds or less
  • Motor homes that are forty feet long or less
  • Motorcycles having three wheels
  • Types of vanpool vehicles that can carry less than fifteen passengers
  • Vehicles that tow another single car which weighs 10,000 pounds or less including any tow dolly
You’ll need a Class M1 license to drive a motorcycle

What other DL classes are there?
Beside the Class C driver’s license, there are other classifications as well based on the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR), the type of the vehicle, and whether it is utilized for commercial or non-commercial purposes. Find out other classes below:

  • Class A (for non-commercial purposes)– Can be any combo of vehicles with the GCWR of 26,001 pounds or more. This can also include a towed car that is heavier than 10,000 pounds.
  • Class B (non-commercial) Can be a single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 pounds or more and/or a towed vehicle less than 10,000 pounds.
  • Class A Commercial
  • Class B Commercial
  • Class C Commercial
  • Class M1 –For any kind of motorcycle or motorized scooter
  • Class M2 – For motorized bicycles, mopeds, and motorized scooters only

What are license endorsements?
Adding endorsements or certifications to any DL class can give permission carrying specific types of cargo or operate certain types of vehicles. Here are available endorsements and certificates in CA:

One example of a license endorsement is an Ambulance Driver Certificate
One example of a license endorsement is an Ambulance Driver Certificate
  • Commercial
  • Doubles/Triples
  • Transporting Hazardous Materials
  • Passenger Transport
  • Tank Vehicle
  • Ambulance Driver’s Certification
  • School Bus
  • Tow Truck Driver’s Certification
  • Verification of Transit Training Certification
  • Farm labor Certification
  • Firefighter

How to file for a Noncommercial Class A or Class B DL in California?
A non-commercial Class A or B license application is identical to a Class C DL. Fill out the Commercial Driver’s License Application on the DMV website. When you finish the application process and pay the charges, you must also submit a Medical Examination Report to the DMV. You’ll be given an instruction permit, and you’re only allowed to practice driving with someone who has a full non-commercial Class A or B license. Make an appointment the DMV office when you’re ready and make sure to have your non-commercial Class A or B vehicle. Your vehicle should pass all the essential safety or smog inspection to pass the practical driving exam. Once you pass the test, you will get a temporary license. Wait up to 4 weeks to obtain your permanent license.

California Vehicle Insurance

What are the CA insurance requirements to operate a vehicle?
Vehicle insurance, otherwise called “financial responsibility” is vital for all vehicles that drive or park on California roads. You should always have proof of auto insurance in your car. Law officers may request it at a traffic stop. You are also required to renew your registration with the DMV and to exchange information/report in case your car is involved in a collision. In addition to these, you also need to purchase a minimum liability insurance policy from any insurance company in the state.

The prerequisites of liability insurance policy (according to the California Insurance Code) are:

Insurance is required on ALL vehicles operated or parked on California roads.
Insurance is required on ALL vehicles operated or parked on California roads.
  • $15,000 for caused injury/death to one individual,
  • $30,000 for caused injury/death to more than one individual, and
  • $5,000 for property damage

You are only protected by liability insurance if it wasn’t your fault in an accident. Remember that possessing ONLY collision or comprehensive coverage doesn’t satisfy California’s legal insurance requirements for driving. You can insure your motor vehicle with:

  • A cash deposit in the amount of $35,000 payable to the DMV
  • A self-insurance certification that DMV issues (learn more about it by contacting DMV Financial Responsibility Unit at 916-657-6520) OR
  • $35,000 Surety bond obtained from an authorized CA company (to unveil the list of companies, call 1-800-927-4357 or contact the Department of Insurance at insurance.ca.gov)

Carry proof of insurance with you, always accessible in your car. In case you fail to submit the evidence of your insurance with the DMV, your vehicle’s registration can be suspended till you provide proof of insurance. To avoid these, make sure to inform the DMV prior to the cancellation of your insurance by completing the Non-Use Affidavit

What impacts do traffic incitation have on my vehicle insurance?

When deciding your premiums, auto insurance companies consider the history of your traffic violations. With higher rates and severity of traffic citations, your rates will probably increase in the amount. When it comes to traffic violations, insurance companies in California can have different policies. There can be a chance of an increase in premium rates over several years. Other companies may decide to apply additional charges that later could be taken of in case of absence of further violations in a year. A dedicated customer with an overall good driving record will probably not face an increase in insurance rates for just one speeding ticket. Further details about traffic ticketing in California, can be found below.

Traffic Citations in California

What is a traffic citation?
If you disobey the traffic laws with your vehicle (e.g. speeding, running a red light or rolling through a stop sign, driving in a place you are not allowed, etc.) you can be cited, or get a traffic ticket. This citation can result in a fine and probably one or more points against your CA driving record. Less severe infractions, or misdemeanors will result in lesser fines. However, serious citations will come with convictions leading to costly fines and penalties.

So you got a traffic ticket. Now what?
So you got a traffic ticket. Now what?

What should I do once I receive a California traffic ticket?

As soon as you get a traffic ticket in California, you have two choices: either to contest your citation or make the appropriate payment to the CA county court where you got the ticket. In case you lose the traffic ticket, be sure to contact the court that handles your case. Several citations allow you to attend traffic schools to mask your point from your driving record. We covered thoroughly about DL points and traffic schools Points on Driver Records below.

How should I make a payment for traffic tickets in California?
You can pay fines of your traffic violation ticket online, in person, by mail, or by phone. You can find the instructions for how to pay on your paper citation. To avoid further penalties and fines make sure to pay your ticket fine by the due date written on it. There is also a necessity to provide proof of correction if you got a traffic ticket for a “correctable violation”. This can include driving with a broken taillight or failure to show evidence of auto insurance. When you pay the fine, it implies that you plead Guilty or “No Contest”.

Can I contest my traffic ticket in California?

You have the choice to contest the written citation you received if you think you didn’t intentionally commit the offence and you do not deserve it. You better have supporting documentation or witness testimony when contesting, which implies pleading “Not Guilty.” Contest your traffic violation ticket:

  • In person, at the traffic clerk’s office on or before your scheduled court date OR at your arraignment on your planned court date (usually mentioned on your citation).
  • Over the phone, by calling the county clerk’s office in your area before your scheduled court date.
  • Via mail, prior to your scheduled court date.

When you ask to waive your arraignment, schedule your trial on the same day as your arraignment, or request a trial by written declaration, you should post bail by paying the traffic ticket fine. The money will be returned to you in case you are proven Not Guilty. However, if you are found Guilty, the money will be used to pay your court costs. You may consider the option of hiring a traffic ticket attorney in case the charges are pretty serious. The state of California doesn’t offer court-appointed attorneys to deal with traffic ticketing.

What does California traffic ticket trial look like?
Either a separate trial day will be set aside for you, or your trial may take place on the same day as your arraignment. You can expect to:

  • Hearing the charges against you
  • Having a court official explain your rights, and
  • Being given the chance to plead

You will be allowed to:

  • Question the decision of the officer who issued your citation
  • Present witnesses
  • Show strong evidence and/or
  • Argue the law

If the court accepts or rejects your plea of Not Guilty, the judicial officer will then inform you.

The judicial officer overseeing the case will then inform you whether the court accepts or rejects your plea of Not Guilty.

Can I contest my ticket by written declaration in California?
In some cases, you may be eligible to provide your statement and all evidence for your Not Guilty plea in writing, instead of going to court. Make sure the ticket is for a traffic violation that does not require a court appearance, and submit the following before the payment due date passes:

Keep copies of everything you submit.

What happens if I win/lose my traffic ticket contest in CA?
If you are found Not Guilty, your bail money will be returned, and your driving record will be adjusted accordingly.

However, if you are found Guilty, you will owe the total fine/bail plus potential additional court charges, and the infraction will stay on your record. And if you submitted a trial by written declaration, you may be able to ask for a new trial to be held in court. Depending on the severity of the violation, you may also have your license suspended or receive additional points on your license. You should ask the court or your traffic attorney what all possible outcomes of losing your trial would be.

What happens if I miss my court date?

If you do not pay the fine or inform the court you cannot attend, you will be issued a Failure to Appear, which can come in the form of a misdemeanor and potentially lead to jail time. A warrant may be issued for your arrest, extra fees may be added to your fine, or your case could be referred to a collection agency. You should call the California county court where your case is being heard as soon as you can if you are unsure you can make on the court date.

Points on Your DMV Record

What do points on my driver license record mean?
In California, points are distributed by the DMV to driver license records for infractions of various severity. These points are part of the Negligent Operator Treatment System, or “NOTS”. Under NOTS, basic infractions (driving in a bus lane, speeding, failing to stop, improper turn, etc.) and being determined at fault in a collision earn a single point. More dangerous offenses (hit and run, DUI, reckless driving, evading a peace officer, driving over 100 mph, etc.) earn 2 points. You can earn 3 points by committing 2-point infractions while operating a commercial vehicle.

What happens if I get too many points on my record?
More infractions in a shorter time period will cause increased computer-generated warnings or actions from the DMV, and could result in license suspension, probation, or revocation for as long as one year. Points on your record tend to increase your insurance premium rates.

Taking an online traffic school can help you avoid future tickets!
Taking an online traffic school can help you avoid future tickets!

How long do points stay on my record?
1-point infractions remain on your license record for three years. 2-point violations stay on your record for seven years. A drunk driving conviction remains on your record for ten years.

How does traffic school work?
In California, your county traffic court may allow you to complete traffic school to mask the point earned from your citation. Traffic schools are approved and licensed by the California DMV. You will be informed if your moving traffic violation is eligible and this option is available to you, and you will have to provide your court ID and ticket number for traffic school certification. If you decide to enroll voluntarily in traffic school and complete the certification, your car insurance provider may award you with a safe driver discount.

What if my moving traffic violation isn’t eligible for traffic school?
Even if you cannot dismiss your traffic ticket or you cannot earn an insurance discount, traffic school is a beneficial and inexpensive investment that improves your knowledge and defensive driving behavior. Traffic schools provide valuable insight on safe driving technique, California traffic laws and signage, and collision avoidance. Traffic school courses may be available in person or online, with reading, audio, or video versions. Courses take about six hours to complete and require you pass a final exam with 70%. Many traffic schools offer free filing services with your local court once you pass the exam and certify. Visit Rapid Traffic School for more details.

Suspended/Revoked License

A revoked California driver's
license cannot be reinstated.
A revoked California driver’s license cannot be reinstated.

What does it mean to suspend a driver’s license?
Suspension of a license involves temporarily placing it on hold, during which time you may not drive. Your California DL can be suspended through both the DMV and state or federal courts. If you receive too many points against your license for various infractions or for being at fault in accidents, there may be a license suspension. You may receive an Order of Suspension from your arresting officer or local DMV, with a temporary driver’s license valid for 30 days. The suspension or revocation begins as soon as the 30 day temporary license expires. License suspensions may be followed by probationary periods, where the license is not suspended but it is under restriction in some way. Breaking the law while suspended can result in longer suspension time, longer probation periods, or revocation.

Suspensions may happen for failing to appear in court after receiving a traffic ticket, failing to provide proof of car insurance, or other reasons determined by the court.

Are all California driver license suspensions the same?
No. The duration of your suspension or revocation depends on the reason for receiving it. Driver suspensions in California can last as little as 30 days (for a minor infraction) or several years for a serious offense. Suspensions will have different lengths and restrictions for those under 21. Under the Admin Per Se (APS) program in California, your driver’s license can be immediately confiscated if you are caught driving drunk.

What does it mean to revoke a license?
Revocation is a formal action to terminate a license. A revoked license is permanently taken away, meaning even after the revocation time ends, you must reapply for a new license from scratch. A revoked license cannot be renewed or restored.

Can I fight a suspension or revocation?
You may request a hearing before a suspension or revocation date if you can prove you do not deserve it. Be sure to ask for this date with the court before the suspension or revocation takes hold. You will be permitted to state your case and present evidence and/or witness testimony.

Reckless Driving Charges

What is a Reckless Driving charge?
California Vehicle Code 23103 defines the offense of reckless driving as operating a motor vehicle with a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of other people or property. This offense is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in jail, a fine of $145-$1,000, and 2 points added to a driver’s record. “Willful or wanton disregard” here means that you know an action is dangerous but you do it anyway because you either choose not to be safe or you simply don’t care whether you are safe or not. This puts people and property (as well as yourself) in danger.

What does reckless driving look like?
Examples of reckless driving can include:

  • Drag or street racing
  • Driving at high speeds through school zones
  • Driving in high speed circles in a parking lot
  • Weaving quickly through other cars, cutting them off
  • Ignoring posted speed limits and signs
  • Causing damage or injury to someone else because of intentional recklessness

Speeding, by itself, is not always considered recklessness. If there is no risk of harm to anyone else, you cannot be charged with reckless driving just for going over the speed limit.

Reckless driving is dangerous!
Reckless driving is dangerous!

Penalties increase if your reckless driving causes injury and/or damage. If a driver seriously injures anyone but themselves while driving recklessly, they can be charged of a felony, imprisoned up to three years and/or fined up to $10,000.

What is a speeding contest?
A “speed contest” can be defined as a race against another vehicle OR a clock. Under the California Vehicle Code 23109a, it is a crime to willfully participate in a speed contest on any public road. If you participate in a race of any kind, you could be charged both with a speed contest charge and a reckless driving charge.

Is there any defense for a reckless driving charge?
A defendant can challenge a California reckless driving charge with the following legal defenses:

  • The defendant was not the driver (must have proof they were not driving).
  • The driving was not acting recklessly (they were not intentionally ignoring risk of harm).
  • The driving was a necessity (committed the crime because they had no other choice).

Can a reckless driving conviction be expunged?
A person guilty of reckless driving can get a criminal record expungement (release of all or most penalties) if they complete their probation or relevant jail term.

A Collision on Your California Record

What goes on my California driving record?
The California DMV uses a point system to issue warnings and fines, order enrollment in driver reeducation programs, or suspend/revoke a license. A record is kept of any times you were convicted of a traffic violation, had your license suspended, or were involved in an accident. This record affects your insurance rates. Collisions where you are deemed at fault earn points against your license.

How can I see what’s on my driving record?
To obtain and/or print a copy of your driving record, you can:

How many years will the DMV keep track of my driving mistakes?
The DMV holds on to records of most infractions for 36 months, although 2 and 3 point violations can be held longer. For instance, DUI convictions are held for 10 years. FTAs (Failure to Appear) for DUI offenses will be retained for 10 years from the violation date. All other FTAs and FTPs (Failure to Pay) will be reported for 5 years from the violation date. (So take notes: make sure you show up in court as promised and pay your fines!)

Can I do anything about it?
Some infractions may be masked by enrolling in a traffic school or defensive driving course. If you’ve received a point on your license due to a moving traffic violation and are given the option to attend traffic school, it’s a good idea to do so. Upon successful completion of the course, the point on your license will be hidden by the DMV. To clarify, the license point is not visible to the public and cannot affect your insurance rates. It will only be used for statistical purposes and will not count as a violation on your record.

Keep your driving record clean by driving safely and avoiding moving violations and accidents!

Getting distracted can cause car accidents.
Getting distracted can cause car accidents.

What if I am involved in a collision?
Immediately following a collision:

  • Call an ambulance if anyone is injured.
  • If possible, move your vehicle away from oncoming traffic to avoid additional accidents.
  • Call the police to file an official report, especially if property damage, injury, or death occurred.
  • Obtain information (names, contact info, insurance, license plate numbers, vehicle info, DL numbers, etc.) from all other collision parties and witnesses. Collect photo evidence of damage, injury, and road/weather conditions.
  • Unless you must be transported to a hospital immediately, do not leave the scene of the accident, or you may be charged with a hit and run.

Try to gather information as quickly as possible. It is a good idea to obtain a copy of the police report on the accident for your records and insurance claim. You should file a collision report with the DMV within 10 days of the accident if the damage totals over $1000 or if anyone is injured. If you do not have insurance coverage at the time of the collision, your license can be suspended.

California Auto License Plates

How do I get my California license plates?
Standard license plates are issued when you buy a new vehicle. They verify your vehicle’s registration and ownership.  Be sure to affix one plate to both the front and back of your vehicle. If you do not receive two plates, you should immediately contact or visit your local DMV.

What are the stickers on license plates for?
You are required to renew your vehicle registration every year for standard vehicles. The yearly fee is paid online, by mail, or by phone, and a fresh sticker is issued by mail for you to place in a specific corner of your plate. Plates and registration renewals vary depending on the vehicle type and whether they are used commercially.

California license plate.

What is the difference between commercial and noncommercial license plates?
The following vehicles are eligible for auto (noncommercial) plates in California:

  • Any passenger vehicle that does not transport people ‘for hire’ (a taxi, for instance)
  • Station wagons
  • Pickup trucks with or without campers or permanently attached camper shells.
  • Vans modified for human habitation
  • Multi-purpose vehicles
  • Hearses

Commercial plates denote vehicles used for commercial purposes. They require special registration and licensing and help law enforcement recognize commercial vehicles. If you have a vehicle with commercial license plates, you may be able to exchange them for standard auto license plates. You will need to bring the vehicle’s pink slip (California Certificate of Title) and the old plates to a DMV office.

What are special interest/personalized license plates?
Special interest and personalized license plates are available for autos, commercial vehicles, trailers, and motorcycles. They are a great way to support a cause you care about, as a portion of your fees are donated to the associated charity or cause, and your unique plate spreads awareness to other drivers on the road. You can order your special interest and/or personalized plates online here.

Operating a Motorcycle in California

Motorcycling can be much more exciting than driving a car. But it does require special skill, knowledge, and attention in order to stay safe. Weather and road conditions can make motorcycling much more difficult, and a motorbike can be hard to see and yield to by drivers in larger vehicles. They are easily tipped over and offer little protection in the event of an accident. In an effort to mitigate the hazards bikers face, certain laws are in effect regarding the operation of motorcycles.

What are the requirements to drive a motorcycle on California highways?

  1. You will need a valid motorcycle license to operate a motorcycle within the state of California. The requirements are different depending on whether you are under or over 21 years of age, and this page on the California DMV website explains how to obtain one.
  2. You must register your motorcycle with the California DMV.
  3. At a minimum, you are required to carry liability insurance on your vehicle, although you may wish to add comprehensive and collision insurance to help protect your investment.
  4. Helmets for motorcycle drivers and their passengers have been required since 1992. The design of the helmet is very important. All motorcycle helmets sold in the United States must meet Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 218. This standard defines minimum levels of performance that helmets must meet to protect the head and brain in a crash. The helmet must have a sturdy chin strap and rivets, at least a 3/4″ foam liner, and a DOT certification sticker, among other requirements. More information on how to check your helmet’s safety can be found here.
  5. You must ride with your headlights on, even during the day.
  6. If you plan to bring a friend along for a ride, your motorcycle must be equipped with footrests for your passenger.
  7. Your motorcycle must also have mirrors, a muffler, and front and rear turn signals (unless it was built prior to 1973).
If your motorcycle was built in 1978 or later, your headlights must always be on during operation, regardless of whether it's day or night.
If your motorcycle was built in 1978 or later, your headlights
must always be on during operation, regardless of
whether it’s day or night.

Do traffic laws that apply to car drivers also apply to motorcyclists?

Absolutely! Motorcyclists have the same responsibilities and rights on the road as other motor vehicles. Signals, signs, and road laws are in place for everyone’s safety. Your size and capacity for speed do not give you special privileges to break traffic laws and put other people at risk, so be sure to obey posted speed limits.

Where can I get hands-on motorcycle training?

The California Highway Patrol offers a Motorcycle Training Class (MTC). This class is a 15 hour course which includes 5 hours of classroom instruction and 10 hours of actual riding. The MTC is mandatory for those under the age of 21 but is also recommended to those 21 and older who wish to obtain a California motorcycle license. Upon completion the student is given a waiver to allow them to skip the riding skills test at the DMV, and passing the class may also result in insurance discounts.

Any thing else I should keep in mind while driving a motorcycle on California roads?

Safety accessories and gear are essential. Just ask any experienced rider and they’ll tell you it’s not a question of if you’ll ever take a spill, but rather a question of when. Cowhide can help protect your skin from painful slides on asphalt. If leather isn’t your thing, you can purchase a jacket or vest made of anti-abrasion material such as Kevlar, which is several times stronger than steel and can withstand a few seconds of road slide without tearing. Technological advances in motorcycle gear include jackets and vests equipped with airbags that deploy when a crash is detected. Some include a neck brace that inflates instantaneously during a crash to keep your head and neck stabilized. Don’t forget to protect your feet and hands with sturdy boots and gloves, as well.

In addition to always wearing your helmet and protective gear every time you ride, get in the habit of making yourself visible to other motorists. Ride in the best lane position to see and be seen. Communicate your intentions with signals, brake lights, and lane positioning. Be mindful of other vehicles’ blind spots and speed up or slow down if necessary to be seen. Never try to cut through before a vehicle turns or exits in front of you. Wear reflective clothing at night. Assuming that you’re invisible to other drivers will help you prepare for the unexpected.