The California Rider Legal Review was created by Choulos Choulos and Wyle, L.L.P., motorcycle lawyers and life-long motorcycle riders, to help explain California motorcycle laws in a short and easy to understand way. Hopefully, by helping riders to better understand the law, we can reduce California motorcycle accidents and injuries.
California Law on Motorcycle Headlamps
So, let’s talk about the California law on motorcycle headlamps, meaning the white light on the front of your motorcycle. Is a headlamp required? The short answer is YES, mostly. California Vehicle Code, Section 25650 says that every motorcycle during darkness shall have at least one and not more than two lighted headlamps conforming to the requirements and limitations of the vehicle code. The California vehicle code says that motorcycles during darkness must have a headlamp, but they do not discuss if a headlamp is required when the motorcycle is operated during daylight.
Next, California Vehicle Code Section 25650.5 says that every motorcycle manufactured and first registered as of January 1, 1978 must be equipped with at least one and not more than two headlamps, which automatically turn on when the engine is started and which stay on as long as the engine is running, so I take this to mean that any bike made and first registered in California on or after January 1, 1978 must be equipped with a working headlight that turns on when you turn the ignition key.
How Bright Does the Headlight Have to Be?
Under California Vehicle Code, Section 25651 (a) the headlight must be of sufficient intensity that it will reveal a person or a vehicle at a distance of not less than 100 feet when you are riding at any speed under 25mph, and at a distance of not less than 200 feet when you are riding 25-35mph, and at a distance of 300 feet when you are riding at more than 35 mph. If you have a multiple beam headlamp, the upper beam must meet the minimum requirements above.
Where Does the Beam Have to Be Aimed?
If you have a single beam lamp, that beam has to be aimed so that, when the bike is loaded, none of the high intensity part of the light, at a distance of 25 feet ahead, projects higher than the level of the center of the headlamp.
We attorneys and bikers at Choulos Choulos & Wyle appreciate your reading this quick review of the California law on motorcycle headlights, and hope that by helping our readers gain a better understanding of motorcycle safety laws in California, we can reduce motorcycle accidents and injuries.