Rules of the Road for Oregon’s Motorcyclists

According to the USDOT’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, motorcyclists are approximately 37 times more likely to die in a crash than someone riding in a passenger car.  In the state of Oregon last year, there were 993 motorcycle accidents in which 919 people were seriously injured and an additional 39 died.  This means that only 35 accidents, or 4 percent of the total motorcycle accidents that happened in Oregon last year, did not result in injury or death.  The chance of injury is very high when you are involved in a motorcycle collision and it is important, for this reason, to be educated about your rights and responsibilities as a motorcycle driver or passenger.


Motorcycles are deemed “vehicles” for the purposes of the Oregon Vehicle code, and as such they are subject to the same rules as passenger vehicles.  These duties come from common law and statute and they include:

  • Control, Lookout, and Speed: Motorcyclists must keep and maintain reasonable control of their vehicles, reasonable lookout for other drivers and things on the roadway, and reasonable speed at all times.
  • Last Clear Chance: If there is any opportunity to avoid a collision, the motorcyclist must take it.
  • Emergency Doctrine: If an accident is due in part to an emergency, then that emergency can be used in determining whether a motorcyclist’s driving was reasonable.
  • Duties to Pedestrians: Motorcyclists must be aware of pedestrians on or near the roadway at all times.
  • Speed: Oregon’s basic speed rule applies to motorcyclists, too.  It prohibits driving on a highway “at a speed greater than is reasonable and prudent. Having due regard for traffic, weather, visibility, the nature of the highway, and other conditions then existing.”
  • Careless and Reckless Driving: Motorcyclists must be alert and aware while driving.  The difference between “careless” driving and “reckless” driving, both of which are punishable under Oregon law, is intent: driving is deemed to be reckless if the motorcyclist is aware of a risk and consciously disregards it.

Motorcyclists are subject to several additional rules under Oregon law, which do not apply to drivers of passenger vehicles.  They cannot carry a passenger who is not seated on a seat; motorcycle passengers cannot be in a position that interferes with the driver’s view, operation, and control of his/her vehicle. Motorcyclists must have lighted headlights and must wear helmets at all times when they are riding.

If you ride in the state of Oregon, it is important to know your duties as well as what you can do to protect yourself from accident-related injuries or death.  My next motorcycle-related post will concern the proactive measures that motorcyclists should take when preparing to hit the road and while riding.  In the meantime, if you have been injured in a motorcycle accident do not hesitate to contact an experienced Oregon motorcycle accident injury attorney.

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