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When someone wants to earn an M1 or M2 endorsement for their California driver’s license, the first step is obtaining a motorcycle learning permit.

The same rules apply to those who pursue a Class C license for trikes, three-wheel motorcycles, motorized scooters, or motorcycles with a sidecar.

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Anyone under 21 must hold an instruction permit for at least six months before testing to have their preferred endorsement on their CA driver’s license. While learning how to drive a motorcycle, some restrictions are in place that must be followed during the educational period.

What Does a Motorcycle Permit Allow You to Do in California?

All riders have three restrictions to follow when they possess a Class M1 or M2 instruction permit when learning how to operate a motorcycle.

  1. You are not allowed to ride your motorcycle on the freeway.
  2. Passengers are not permitted.
  3. You cannot operate the bike between the hours of sunset and sunrise.

Passenger laws for motorcycles have changed in recent years in California. Kids are no longer permitted to ride unless they are tall enough to not require a car seat.

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If you’re under 21, California requires you to complete a motorcyclist safety program training course before receiving your permit. If you are older, the state still encourages enrollment in these classes.

State-approved training courses provide hands-on training and knowledge to help anyone become a better rider. Although it is a time and financial commitment to take these classes, the Department of Motor Vehicles may waive the skills test as part of the licensing procedure.

You’d need to submit your DL 389 certificate that shows you completed an authorized training course. Out-of-state training programs don’t qualify for the DMV skills test waiver.

The DL 389 certificate is valid for one year from its issue date.

Can You Drive a Motorcycle with a Permit in California?

When you operate a motorcycle with only a permit and not a license, you’re bound by all the laws and the additional restrictions that come with that privilege.

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If you drive on the freeway, have a passenger, or ride at night, you violate California Vehicle Code 12500.

The penalties for driving without a motorcycle license in CA when it is required are considered a misdemeanor. You could receive up to six months in county jail and a fine of up to $1,000.

All riders must have a helmet that is securely fastened. A face mask and eyewear are also necessary if a windscreen isn’t available.

If you’re caught operating a motorcycle in conditions that aren’t allowed with your permit, the law enforcement agency involved in the stoppage could impound your bike. A licensed rider would need to get it back in that circumstance.

The easiest way to get your endorsement or license in California is to follow the permit restrictions. Once you pass the skills test or submit your certificate, you can ride whatever roads you prefer.

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Mike Navarette has more than a decade of experience in the auto insurance industry, but that's not his true passion. He loves getting on a motorcycle to explore roads he's never traveled. You'll find Mike in the garage working on something when he isn't helping clients or leaning into curves. It's sometimes a side hustle, more often a favor, but it keeps his hands busy doing something productive. Since the first time his father strapped on his helmet and took him for a ride, Mike has loved bikes. That passion, along with a desire to help others through a deep understanding of insurance policies, led to the creation of Motorcycle Ride Coverage.

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