Stay current if you ride in the Evergreen State.

Do you currently ride a motorcycle in Washington state? If so, you need to be aware of some important motorcycle-related legislation that went into effect as of January 1, 2020. In an effort to increase motorcycle safety through adequate training of motorcyclists on its roads, Washington has both made motorcycle endorsement testing more rigorous, and also increased penalties if you’re caught riding without a license.

Someone more cynical-minded might initially say “oh, the state is raising fees to generate revenue.” While it’s difficult to say that anyone’s motives are completely pure, it’s also hard to dispute the fact that previously, the cost of getting caught without a motorcycle license was lower than the cost of actually taking motorcycle classes. As of 2020, it’ll now cost you less to obtain the proper training than it will to get caught riding without a license. The full penalty for riding without a license will now cost $386, with all fees considered. The logic is pretty clear.

Part of this has to do with Washington state’s Target Zero highway safety plan, which aims to get serious injuries and fatalities on state roadways down to zero by 2030. An ambitious plan, to be sure. You can read the full report here, but one key point as regards motorcyclists is the state’s intention to make the permitting and endorsement process for motorcyclists be a more meaningful evaluation of their skills. 

The state of Washington is also making endorsement testing more difficult for riders seeking to get a license. The state says it’s doing this to convince more riders to get formal training so they can pass these tests, so that riders can be more knowledgeable and enhance their riding skills through that training. 

As of January 1, 2020, riders must first pass a permit knowledge and a permit riding skills exam to get a motorcycle permit. That permit is good for 180 days, and can be renewed for another 180-day period once before it expires. Riders who are riding on a permit can’t carry a passenger, or ride when it’s dark out. 

Once you’ve passed both permit-level tests and received your Washington state motorcycle permit, you’ll also need to pass the endorsement knowledge and endorsement riding skills exams. The Endorsement Knowledge test consists of 50 questions. Full information about all four tests is available here.

It’s worth noting here that the state of Washington subsidizes motorcycle training courses through approved schools throughout the state, for both Washington residents and military personnel. Full information on this program is available here. Courses are not free, but are available at substantially reduced rates for Washington residents and military personnel.

Sources: King 5 News, Washington State Department of Licensing, Target Zero, House Bill Report SHB 1116, Washington Motorcycle Safety Program Subsidy Funding Policies And Procedures