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Do Motorcycles Need Mirrors? A Legal Question

Occasionally, a biker might buy a new ride and find that it doesn't have any rearview mirror. They ask themselves, "Do I need mirrors on my motorcycle?" The short answer is yes - both legally and for your own safety.

In states like Georgia, it's easy to find a motorcycle without them, but that same vehicle would actually be illegal in South Carolina and Tennessee. Vintage bikes also are often sold without mirrors but need them legally to drive. If you're planning for a road trip or simply trying to make your ride safer, check out the rearview mirror requirements in the US.

Bike handles and side mirror

Do motorcycles need mirrors?

In the US, 22 out of 50 states require some form of mirrors on motorcycles, with five states requiring two rearview mirrors (typically one on each handlebar). While the other 28 states don't legally require a mirror, it's still generally a good idea to have one that shows at least 200 feet behind you to avoid accidents and make it easier to drive.

States That Require Mirrors

  • Alaska - Requires both a left and a right rearview mirror.
  • Arizona - Requires a rearview mirror.
  • Arkansas - Requires one rearview mirror.
  • California - Requires a rearview mirror that shows at least 200 feet behind the vehicle.
  • Kentucky - Requires a rearview mirror.
  • Maine - Requires a rearview mirror that shows at least 200 feet behind the vehicle.
  • Maryland - Requires both a left and a right rearview mirror.
  • Minnesota - Requires a rearview mirror that shows at least 200 feet behind the vehicle.
  • Missouri - Requires a rearview mirror.
  • Nevada - Requires both a left and a right rearview mirror, which both should show at least 200 feet behind the vehicle.
  • New Hampshire - Requires a rearview mirror.
  • New York - Requires a rearview mirror.
  • North Carolina - Requires a rearview mirror that shows at least 200 feet behind the vehicle.
  • North Dakota - Requires a rearview mirror with a minimum reflective surface of 10 square inches.
  • Ohio - Requires a rearview mirror.
  • Oklahoma - Requires both a left and a right rearview mirror with a reflection surface of at least three inches in diameter and that shows at least 200 feet behind the vehicle.
  • Rhode Island - Requires a rearview mirror.
  • South Carolina - Requires a rearview mirror.
  • Tennessee - Requires a rearview mirror on the left handlebar.
  • Utah - Requires a rearview mirror.
  • Washington - Requires both a left and a right rearview mirror, which both should show at least 200 feet behind the vehicle.
  • West Virginia - Requires a rearview mirror that shows at least 200 feet behind the vehicle.

States That Don't Require Mirrors

Alabama, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming don't have a requirement for mirrors on motorcycles. In these states, there's no formal penalty for not having a mirror on your bike, but they may have other requirements (such as for headlights). Note that, even in these states, it's generally safer to have a rearview mirror for avoiding accidents.

How many mirrors do you need on a motorcycle?

Generally, you need at least one rearview mirror, but five out of the 50 states require two, with one on each handlebar. If you plan on doing a road trip in that area, you should plan on either buying a bike that already has two mirrors or affixing an extra mirror to your second handlebar.

Each state also has its own special requirements, such as how far you need to be able to see behind you, where the mirror is fixed to the vehicle and the surface area of the reflection.

What about other countries?

Let's say you're planning quite the road trip; do motorcycles need rearview mirrors in other countries? Generally, the answer is yes. In Canada, you need at least one well-affixed mirror on your "motorbike." If you're planning a long trip, it's generally better to get a rearview mirror for your own driving safety.

What's the case for rearview mirrors on motorcycles?

Many old-school motorcyclists might scoff at the idea of affixing a gaudy mirror to their beautiful bike, claiming that they can just turn around to see their blind spot; however, riding is all about reaction time. Turning your head with a helmet on takes the precious fractions of a second that you need to react to an accident to avoid injury. Go with the safest round, which also allows you to cross state lines without worrying!

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