Riding a motorcycle can be an exhilarating experience far different than other traveling methods. Unfortunately, it can also be dangerous if another, bigger vehicle hits the motorcyclist. That’s why the state of Washington has some requirements regarding protective gear.

What Protective Gear Does Washington State Require?

Washington doesn’t require much protective gear, although it recommends using as much as possible. The only requirements are that riders must wear a Department of Transportation (DOT)-approved helmet that’s in good condition and some form of eye protection if they don’t have a windshield.

There are exceptions to the motorcycle helmet law. If the vehicle is what’s described as an antique motor-driven cycle or comes equipped with a steering wheel, wholly or partly enclosed seating area that conforms to state standards, and approved seatbelts, helmets are not required.

What Are Other Requirements for Motorcyclists in Washington?

Those are not the only requirements for motorcyclists in general, however. To legally operate a motorcycle in Washington, riders must:

  • Have a Class C, M1, or M2 license, or a valid learner’s permit
  • Keep headlight and taillight on while riding
  • Not use a motorcycle with handlebars more than 30 inches above the seat
  • Have working turn signals as well as right and left mirrors
  • Have passenger seats and footrests if carrying passengers, and passengers under age five aren’t allowed
  • Pass a motorcycle education course if the rider is under 18

What Other Protective Gear Is Recommended?

According to the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF), the most essential piece of protective gear is the one required in Washington: A DOT-approved helmet. Because head injuries are common in motorcycle accidents and can lead to life-changing outcomes, wearing a helmet is a must.

But there are other items motorcyclists should consider for their safety.

Ear Protection

Motorcycles are loud, and prolonged unprotected exposure to that sound can lead to permanent hearing loss. The key is to use ear protection that keeps the bulk of the motor noise out but still allows the rider to hear car horns and emergency vehicle sirens.

Face Protection

While Washington doesn’t require eye protection for someone riding a motorcycle with a windshield, it’s still a good idea. Even better is a full face shield. A windshield will only prevent some debris from striking the face; goggles can prevent the debris from entering the eyes, but small stones can cause surprisingly nasty injuries to the rest of the face.

The best type of face shield should fasten securely to the helmet and be resistant to impact and scratches, the latter of which can cause the rider’s vision to appear blurred. If the rider rides both in daylight and at night, having a tinted shield for daytime can reduce glare but shouldn’t be used at night. A clear shield provides better vision in the dark.


A good pair of motorcycle gloves protect the hand’s skin from wind- or sunburn and blisters. They also can prevent deeper injuries from an accident. You may want separate sets of gloves for different weather conditions.

Jackets, Pants, and Rain Suits

While part of the joy of being a motorcycle rider is feeling the wind and sun on your skin, not wearing protective jackets and pants can lead to significantly worse injuries and outcomes if there’s an accident. For colder weather, layering is essential, with protective gear over the warm inner layers.

Keep in mind that even on a warm day, riding at freeway speeds can reduce the effect of the sun’s heat, so wearing protective gear won’t be as uncomfortable as it may seem.

A rain suit is also highly recommended, whether one-piece or two-piece. This isn’t valuable just because it keeps the rider more comfortable; a soaking-wet rider may be less alert than one that’s dry.


The feet and ankles are easy targets for injuries when an accident occurs. Wearing sturdy above-the-ankle boots can prevent anything from cuts and bruises from flying road debris to exhaust pipe burns.

What Type of Comparative Negligence Is Used in Washington Accident Cases?

Across the U.S., there are generally three types of comparative or contributory negligence bases for determining how much a person injured in an accident can receive in damages.

Contributory negligence. Contributory negligence means that if the injured person is even the smallest part responsible for the accident, they’re not eligible to collect any damages.
Modified comparative negligence. Modified comparative negligence says that they can’t collect damages if the injured person is either 50% or 51% responsible for the accident (the percentage varies across several states).
Pure comparative negligence. This type of negligence holds that if the injured person is partly responsible for the accident, they can collect damages, but the amount collected will be reduced by the amount the court considers them to be at fault. For example, if the injured person is found to be 40% responsible for the accident and is awarded $10,000 in damages, they’ll only receive $6,000.

Washington is a pure comparative negligence state. Because both sides have a vested interest in having more fault assigned to the other party, it’s best to have a motorcycle accident lawyer working on your behalf to prevent loss of damages.

What Should I Do if I Was Injured While Riding My Motorcycle?

Call Church & Page at 509-638-1414 to request a free consultation. We have knowledgeable attorneys who have experience with motorcycle accidents and can provide guidance in pursuing claims.