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Do I Need a Special License to Ride a Motorcycle in Wisconsin?

Motorcycles offer a feeling of freedom and excitement. However, they also require motorcyclists to understand how driving a non-covered vehicle differs from driving a passenger vehicle, to be ridden safely.

If you plan to get on a motorcycle, it is important to know Wisconsin requires a special license to drive one. Brian Hodgkiss Injury Lawyers can answer your legal questions about motorcycle operation and what happens if you get injured in an accident with another vehicle while on a motorcycle.

Leading Causes of Motorcycle Accidents in Wisconsin

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation reports that motorcycle accidents frequently occur when drivers of other vehicles switch lanes or make left-hand turns without checking for motorcyclists. Accidents also occur when drivers cut off motorcycles by swerving or switching lanes directly in front of them.

After declining for several years, motorcycle accident rates rose again by 16.5% between 2019 to 2020, and the number of riders killed rose 37%.

All drivers on Wisconsin roads and highways need to be cautious of and around other road users, but aspiring motorcyclists should also ensure they are properly licensed and wear protective gear to protect themselves in the event of a potential crash.

What Are the Wisconsin Motorcycle License Requirements?

Wisconsin law requires a class M license or a motorcycle instructional permit for all motorcyclists. It also mandates safety gear and equipment standards.

License Requirements for Motorcycles

Potential motorcyclists must pass a knowledge test, road signs test, and vision screening to obtain an instructional permit. You must get your instructional permit first before you can apply for a full license.

To apply for a permit, you must be at least 16 years old. If you are under 18 years old, you will also need a sponsor who must sign a waiver accepting liability for accidents you cause, and proof that you passed a driver’s education course or hold a probationary driver’s license. Under-18s must also have proof of enrollment in or completion of the Basic RiderCourse.

With a permit, riders can legally ride on public roads, with some restrictions. Riders with a permit only and not a full license must use eye protection and wear an approved helmet every time they ride. When riding after dark, an experienced rider who is at least 25 years old must accompany the permit holder.

To earn a full license, permit holders must complete a skills test within six months of receiving their permit. Motorcyclists must wear approved protective gear to take the skills test. You can schedule a skills test at a DMV customer service office.

Successful completion of the Basic RiderCourse, the 3-Wheel Basic RiderCourse, or the Basic RiderCourse2 allows the state to waive your skills test. Each course offers a combination of classroom and experiential instruction so you can apply what you learn on the road.

If you haven’t completed the requirements to apply for a full license within six months, you may get a 6-month extension.

Safety Gear Requirements

Wisconsin law requires all riders under the age of 18 and all instructional permit holders to wear an approved helmet. All motorcyclists must protect the soft tissue on their face by wearing protective gear like a face shield, glasses, goggles, or have an approved windshield. Wisconsin prohibits tinted eyewear after dark, except for prescription transitional lenses.

The state also recommends every motorcyclist use the following gear:

  • Recommended helmet
  • Full-fingered gloves
  • Long-sleeved shirt or jacket
  • Long pants
  • Ankle-covering boots or shoes
  • Use of goggles even with an approved windshield

Motorcycle Equipment Requirements

Motorcycles must have handlebars in good condition which must not be over 30 inches above the lowest point of the driver’s seat. The bike must have these other requirements:

The state designed these license and maintenance requirements to protect motorcycle operators and their passengers. The regulations don’t prevent accidents, but adhering to these state-mandated requirements minimizes your chances of involvement in a devastating motorcycle accident.

To Protect Your Rights, Consult a Lawyer After a Motorcycle Accident

If another driver’s actions caused your motorcycle crash, and resulted in you being seriously injured, speak with a personal injury attorney as soon as possible.

Our skilled Wisconsin motorcycle attorneys can protect your rights and help you negotiate with the driver’s insurance company for a fair settlement. The legal team at Brian Hodgkiss Injury Lawyers is ready to work on your behalf to get you the compensation you deserve.

Contact our law firm today to schedule your free consultation and start your case.

Originally published August 1, 2022. Updated February 6, 2024.

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