5 Things you Should know about Tennessee’s Motorcycle Laws

man chose a bike

Motorcycles are a prevalent means of transport. Some opt for motorcycles due to the lower cost as compared to cars, while others simply prefer the convenience that comes along with a small vehicle. Then there are those who just love the thrill that comes with riding a two-wheeler.

When you think of a motorbike ride, you think of adventure and romance. Hence, whatever the reason, riding a motorcycle certainly has its charm, making it the vehicle of choice for many.

That being said, some things must be kept in mind when riding a motorcycle. The biggest downside is the enhanced safety concerns that come with riding a motorcycle. Due to the small and compact design of motorcycles, there are not many safety features that can be added to protect riders in case of an accident. As a safety measure, states across the country have introduced and are overseeing the strict implementation of laws about motorcycles to try to protect motorists.

It is always recommended to seek professional legal help in case of an accident. In fact, there are plenty of specialized Nashville motorcycle accident lawyers available who can help you in such a situation. However, with the rising rate of motorcycle accidents across the state, riders need to familiarize themselves with Tennessee motorcycle laws. So here is a compiled list of the most important motorcycle laws which motorcycle riders in Tennessee must be aware of. Read on to find out more.

License Requirements

Motorcycle riders get their Class M motorcycle license, which is granted after one passes a vision screening, a written knowledge test, and a road skills test. The testing requirements vary for those not currently holding a Class D or PD license. The minimum age for obtaining a Class M license is 16; however, 15-year-olds can also legally ride a motorcycle as long as they hold a special permit.

The purpose of a license is, in the first instance, to ensure that all riders are fully aware of the rules and regulations surrounding motorcycle riding. Additionally, passing license tests confirm that the person is skilled and capable of operating the vehicle safely. Hence, obtaining a license is mandatory under the law, as is carrying it with you at all times you ride the motorcycle. If found riding without a license, you may be penalized and fined, and your motorcycle could be impounded.

Tennessee Helmet Law

Tennessee has a strict motorcycle helmet law that requires all motorists and passengers to wear helmets while in the vehicle. According to the Tennessee Highway Safety Office, there were nearly 300 motorcycle crashes in 2021 alone. Many of these led to serious injuries and fatalities. By wearing a helmet, you can reduce your chances of getting a serious head injury during a crash by 60-80%. For this reason, helmets are mandatory for persons riding a motorcycle.

If you’re a motorist or frequently travel on a motorcycle, invest in a good helmet that is comfortable and compliant with an approved standard authority such as the Southern Impact Research Center. Pro-tip: opt for a reflective helmet to make night riding easier. If you are caught riding without a helmet, you may earn a ticket, a $50 fine, and jail time.

Compulsory Motorcycle Insurance

Insurance is a legal requirement for riding a motorcycle in Tennessee. Without insurance, the department will refuse to register your motorcycle, and riding an unregistered and uninsured vehicle opens you up to all sorts of penalties.

The purpose behind insurance is to ensure that neither party suffers inordinately in case of an accident. If you are found to be at fault for an accident, the medical and repair costs for yourself and the other party come directly out of your pocket. With insurance coverage, the insurer pays these costs. Presently, the minimum coverage required for motorcycles is $30,000 for bodily injury.

Additionally, it is expected that a minimum of $60,000 coverage is acquired for the bodily injury of all parties injured in a crash, along with a damage liability coverage of $25,000. Failure to meet the minimum insurance requirements can cause motorists to bear fines or even have their licenses suspended.

Vehicle Requirements

Tennessee state requires all motorcycles to include certain features under the law. These include both side mirrors (left & right) and a muffler. For safe driving, a vehicle must be equipped with both side mirrors so that a complete view of the background can be seen. This is imperative while making turns. A muffler, on the other hand, is a device that reduces the engine noise of a motorcycle. Since the noise from a motorcycle engine is extremely loud and amounts to noise pollution, motorists need to install a muffler.


Additionally, state law also requires motorcycle riders to use headlights during the daytime. Therefore, your headlights must always be in proper working condition. Failure to abide by these standards can lead to a penalty, a $50 fine, or 30 days imprisonment.

Lane Splitting Prohibition

The Tennessee Code expressly prohibits lane splitting by motorcycles. Lane splitting refers to when a motorist breaks out of the pre-defined lanes on the road and rides their motorcycle in between the designated lanes.

This is a very common maneuver for motorists, especially during high traffic, as by splitting lanes, motorcycles can quickly cross huge chunks of the traffic jam. However, the law strictly states that no motorist shall ‘overtake and pass in the same lane occupied by the vehicle being overtaken.’ Violation of this law can result in fines and points on your license.


Nashville roads are a motorist’s dream. The exhilaration and stress relief you feel while flying through the air is incomparable. As is the ease and convenience of operating and handling a motorcycle in the city. However, as you go about discovering new places and taking on new adventures, make sure you stay safe and abide by all relevant laws.

The above five laws are the most important ones for you to know as a motorcycle rider. If you need further information, refer to the Tennessee Motorcycle Operator Manual. You can find it on the Tennessee State Government website. By learning about the applicable laws, you can ensure your safety and that of others and enjoy your ride without worry.

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