Why Do Motorcyclists Flip Their Plates Backward?

Have you ever been behind a motorcyclist who has flipped their rear plate so that you can’t see it? You may not have thought anything of it, but in all 50 states, it is illegal to drive without a valid rear plate. That means it also must be visible.

The motorcycle accident attorneys at Cesar Ornelas Injury Law are here to provide you with information to make your ride both legal and safe.

Motorcycle bigbike break and turn signal light and engine body made from high technology metal.

What are the License Plate Requirements under Texas Law?

Any vehicle that rides on Texas roads must be registered. In order to show that the motorcycle is registered, the rider must attach a registration sticker to the rear plate. The sticker will show that their registration is current. 

Texas has specific requirements for license plates which can be summarized into the following categories:


It is important that a license plate is readable. The Texas Department of Transportation uses specialized software to establish a plate’s readability, known as a Minimum Contrast Score (MCS). All Texas license plates must meet an MCS of 90 or higher.


Texas license plates must be reflective and readable both during the day and at night. Using low beams, a person must be able to read the license plate from at least 75 feet away.


Different vehicles have different license plate measurement requirements. A motorcycle’s license plate must be 7 inches wide by 4 inches tall. 

Material Specifications

All license plates must be made of aluminum, have a thickness of 0.027”, and be manufactured with the 3M™ Ensure seal and 3M™ Ensure virtual security. 

Text and Graphic Design

On any license plate, a solid background color is allowed as long as the plate passes the readability and reflectivity tests.

General issue license plates are alpha-numeric, meaning they contain both letters and numbers. Motorcycle license plate patterns are six characters with the following sequencing: A1212A.

Unlike other general issue license plates, a motorcycle license plate is not required to have the state name of TEXAS centered at the top of the plate.

How Should a Motorcyclist Display Their License Plate?

The Texas Administrative Code states that every vehicle must display one plate that is secured properly and is in the rear of the vehicle, not less than 12 inches from the ground.

Why is the Visibility of a License Plate Important?

A license plate needs to be visible to police officers when you are riding. It serves as an identification tag for your motorcycle. It can especially be helpful if you are involved in an accident or if your vehicle is stolen. 

Reasons Motorcyclists Flip Their License Plates 

A motorcyclist may flip their license plate around for a couple of different reasons:

#1. Motorcyclists are trying to protect themselves against identity theft. 

Although a benign reason, it most likely does not prevent your identity from being stolen since personal identifying factors are so easily accessible on the internet.

#2. Motorcyclists are trying to hide that they are riding illegally.

A rider’s registration may have expired, and he or she may not have the money to renew it (or just don’t want to). The motorcyclist could also have taken steps to obtain a fake license plate number. A fake license plate will have missing letters or numbers, or the characters may be placed incorrectly. 

Fake license plates and fraudulent registration is increasingly becoming a problem. According to Texas law, a person who is charged with fraudulent vehicle registration or falsifying information on a title transfer may be subject to a fine or imprisonment. 

Some riders even go as far as using license plate hiders. A license plate hider is a warning flag to police officers. Don’t use them. 

What is a Plate Flipper?

Motorcyclists have the option of purchasing plate flippers online. Amazon even sells them. A plate flipper is a device that will rotate your license plate to change the numbers displayed. 

The plate flipper rotates the plate 180 degrees with the push of a button. In the United States, it is unlawful to install a plate-flipping device on any vehicle.

If a police officer pulls you over and discovers that you have installed a plate flipper, you will be facing a host of legal problems.

Do Antique Motorcycles Have to Follow the Same Regulations?

An antique vehicle is exempt from annual inspections in Texas. That being said, an antique does have to be registered with the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles. Motorcycles that are 25 years or older will be issued one Antique plate to be displayed on the rear of the vehicle. The fee is lower if the vehicle was manufactured prior to 1921. 

Instead of an Antique plate, the owner of an antique motorcycle may use an embossed license plate issued by Texas that is the same year as the vehicle’s model year. The plate is required to have the original color scheme and be readable.  

If the original plate is approved by your local county tax assessor-collector’s office, a plate tab with a registration sticker will be issued to show the plate is valid.

Other Laws Motorcyclists Must Follow

In Texas, motorcyclists are required to follow certain laws, including:

  • Helmet laws: according to the Texas Transportation Code § 661.003, all riders under the age of 21 are required to wear a helmet when riding a motorcycle or scooter, referred to as “protective headgear” in the Texas statute. This helmet must meet Federal safety standards.
  • Passenger laws: a motorcycle operator is only authorized to carry passengers if the vehicle is equipped with a permanent passenger seat, handholds, and footrest. All passengers must be at least five years old, and passengers under 21 must wear a helmet.
  • Lane splitting: although not explicitly prohibited in Texas law pertaining to motorcycles, other Texas statutes forbid lane splitting for motorized vehicles in general

Contact a San Antonio Motorcycle Accident Lawyer Today

Even following all the rules of the road, accidents can happen. A motorcyclist is more likely to be injured in a crash than a passenger vehicle. A motorcyclist can be found liable if he or she is riding recklessly, hitting a pedestrian or another vehicle. 

That is where we can help. We have years of experience representing riders in crashes. Contact us today to schedule your free case evaluation at no obligation.


If you or a loved one has been seriously injured, please fill out the form below for your free consultation or call us at: (855) 930-1149

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