Do Motorcycles Need Mirrors? Motorcycle Mirror Laws

Whether you own a motorcycle or are looking into buying one, one thing you may overlook is whether or not motorcycles need mirrors. It is important to know the safety rules and regulations regarding motorcycle mirrors and many states have laws when it comes to the requirements that need to be met before you can take your motorcycle out on the road.

Quick Answer

After scouring mirror laws across the 50 states, I discovered that 33 states have mirror requirements. Most of the laws cover motorcycles under the umbrella term “every motor vehicle.” The laws vary from state to state but the most common requirement is a mirror on the left side of any motor vehicle that allows the driver a view of the highway for a distance of at least 200 feet. Listed are the states that have mirror laws.

  1. Alabama
  2. California
  3. Colorado
  4. Connecticut
  5. Delaware
  6. Florida
  7. Hawaii
  8. Idaho
  9. Illinois
  10. Kansas
  11. Kentucky
  12. Maine
  13. Maryland
  14. Massachusetts
  15. Michigan
  16. Montana
  17. Nevada
  18. New Mexico
  19. New York
  20. North Carolina
  21. North Dakota
  22. Ohio
  23. Oklahoma
  24. Pennsylvania
  25. Rhode Island
  26. South Dakota
  27. Tennessee
  28. Texas
  29. Utah
  30. Virginia
  31. Washington
  32. Wisconsin
  33. Wyoming

Whether you need mirrors to legally have your motorcycle on the road or you want them for safety, there is a lot to know when it comes to mirrors.

Here Is Why Motorcycles Need Mirrors

Some states make it a requirement for motorcycles to have mirrors before they can be legally driven on the roads. Even in states that don’t, mirrors are a feature that may make your rides safer.

Why Should You Have Mirrors On Your Motorcycle

There are several benefits to having proper mirrors on your motorcycle. The mirrors not only benefit the bike rider; they benefit other drivers on the road promoting safe travels for all.

Motorcycle mirrors help the rider be aware of other drivers: Having a side mirror on your motorcycle helps you see what is behind you whether it is another motorcycle, a car, or a semi-truck. Motorcycles may be difficult for other drivers to see so it is imperative that you are aware of your surroundings.

Side mirrors help keep the bike stable: Side mirrors on the motorcycle enable the driver to see what is behind them while keeping their bodies facing forward. When drivers turn their heads to try and see what is behind them, the rider may have difficulty keeping the bike straight, especially if you are a beginner.

Mirrors help riders execute bypasses:  Passing other vehicles on the road is made much safer when riders can see all of the vehicles behind them. Mirrors should give you a view of at least 200 feet ensuring riders know when it is safe to change lanes.

Which States Require Motorcycles To Have Mirrors:

As mentioned above, most states that have mirror laws lump motorcycles in with all motor vehicles. Some states have motorcycle specific laws and some have none at all when it comes to requiring mirrors. Here is a breakdown of the states and their requirements.

A distance of 200 feet: The majority of state laws are worded “every motor vehicle shall be equipped with a mirror to reflect to the driver a view of the highway for a distance of at least 200 feet to the rear of such motor vehicle.” The states with this verbiage are Alabama, California, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Maryland, Montana, New Mexico, South Dakota, Texas, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, and Rhode Island.

No Distance Requirement: Some state laws did not include the distance requirement and were worded “every motor vehicle must be equipped with a mirror so the operator has clear reflected view of the highway directly to the rear of or on a line parallel to the left side of the body.” Those states are Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Utah, and Wyoming.

Motorcycle specific requirements: Five states listed mirror laws specific to motorcycles indicating the motorcycle must be equipped with a mirror to allow a clear, reflected view of 200 feet. These states include Maine, North Carolina, North Dakota, Tennessee (who also requires footrests) and, Ohio.

Specific and unique requirements: Kansas and Kentucky specify that mirrors on any motor vehicle must be mounted on the left side of the vehicle. Michigan’s state law states that “rearview mirrors can be positioned on the helmet or visor worn by the operator of a motorcycle if the helmet is securely attached to the head of the operator.”

Types of Motorcycle Mirrors

While most motorcycles come with mirrors, you may be looking to make upgrades or modifications or replace a broken mirror.  We are going to explore three different mounts and look at the pros and cons of each style so you can decide what works best for you and the type of bike you have.

Bar End Mirrors

Bar mount mirrors are installed at the end of the handlebars. This type of mirror is popular because they are less obtrusive and have a 360-degree adjustable arm so it can be adjusted to fit in a tight spot such as a garage. This style is custom and not usually found on stock motorcycles but is becoming increasingly popular.

Pros:

Bar end mirrors are smaller and more compact

They give the bike a sleek look

They fold away easily

Reduced blind spots

Don’t stick up and call attention away from the bike

Cons:

Drilling or cutting into grip ends may be necessary for installation

Stick out further and may make it harder to split lanes

May vibrate due to their location on the bike

Bar Mounted Mirrors

Bar mounted mirrors or handlebar mirrors are mounted on the handlebars of the motorcycle. Bar mounted mirrors often utilize the use of a clamp to install the mirror of your choice. This type of mount is typically found on stock cruisers, dual sports, and standard motorcycles.

Pros:

Bar mounted mirrors are easy to swap out

They are easy to find and replace

They often provide a wide field of vision

They are easy to install and adjust

Cons:

Rider’s shoulders and/or upper body can block the line of view if not adjusted properly

Handlebar mirrors are sometimes considered the less stylish option

Fairing Mounted Mirrors

Some motorcycles have fairings that help with wind deflection and provide a more comfortable ride.  Fairing Mounted Mirrors are mounted just inside the inner fairing. They are adjustable and have convex mirror glass to maximize a rider’s field of view. This style is typically found on touring bikes and sportbikes.

Pros:

Fairing mounted mirrors provide a nice aesthetic for the bike

The mirrors don’t stick out so it is easier to split lanes

Easy to fit into a tight parking spot

Minimal modifications required for installation

Cons:

Riders may see less of what is behind them and more of their arm and hand

Larger blind spot

Less vibration from riding

Not all motorcycles have fairings

How To Angle and Tighten Motorcycle Mirrors

Whether your mirrors are for safety or to meet state laws, proper installation is of the utmost important. Read on to learn how to angle and tighten your motorcycle’s mirrors.

Whether your mirrors are for safety or to meet state laws, proper position is of the utmost importance. It is also important to make sure they are tight and remain unyielding in the wind. Read on to learn how to angle and tighten your motorcycle’s mirrors.

Step 1: Examine your posture and riding position- Before making any adjustments, check out how you ride the bike to ensure optimal mirror positioning.

Step 2: Determine what kind of mirrors you have- Fairing mounted mirrors are not adjustable. Bar end mirrors use an Allen wrench and handlebar mounted mirrors use an adjusting nut.

Step 3: Loosen the mirror- Loosen the mirrors using the method appropriate for your type of mirrors.

Step 4: Angle the mirrors- The mirrors should be angled to see as much of the road behind you as you can including any vehicles that may be traveling there.

Step 5: Tighten the mirrors- Once you are confident you have maximized your view of the road behind you, tighten the mirrors. Be sure you don’t overtighten them. If they stay too loose, the adjustment will have a short-lived effectiveness.

While it seems simple, angling and adjusting your mirrors play a very important role in helping keep you safe during your ride.

Wrap-Up

Whether you’re wanting to give yourself a safer ride or wanting to make sure you are abiding by your state’s laws, you should now have more insight into which state has motorcycle mirror requirements and which ones don’t. You also know more about the different types of mounting available to make the best choice for you and your bike.

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