Motorcycle Safety, Teens Ages 16 to 19 Years

Every week in New York State (NYS), about 11 motorcycle drivers and their passengers ages 15 to 19 years old are hospitalized or treated in hospital emergency departments because of injuries received in motorcycle crashes. The risk of dying in a motorcycle crash is 16 times that of dying in a car crash.

The good news is that you, as a parent or caregiver, can play a major role in preventing motorcycle injuries.

What are the leading causes of motorcycle crashes involving teenagers?

  • Unsafe speed is the leading factor contributing to motorcycle crashes involving 16 to 19 year old drivers.
  • Two thirds of the crashes involving 16 to 19 year old motorcycle drivers were caused by the driver. (Continue reading for safe driving tips!)

How do I know if my teen is ready to drive a motorcycle?

Seriously consider whether your teenager is responsible enough to drive a motorcycle before allowing him or her to do so. Driving a motorcycle is more difficult than driving a car as it requires more agility, coordination and alertness. Driving a motorcycle can also be more dangerous than driving a car, and in a crash, motorcycles offer no protection.

Should I let my teen drive with passengers?

Newly licensed motorcycle drivers should not carry passengers as they lack sufficient motorcycle driving skills and experience. Driving with a passenger is more difficult than driving alone.

What NYS motorcycle laws are important for me to know?

  • At age 16, drivers are eligible for a motorcycle license. Drivers must have a valid NYS motorcycle license to operate a motorcycle.
  • Both drivers and passengers must wear a helmet made specifically for motorcycles and should be Department of Transportation (DOT) approved.
  • Motorcycle drivers must wear approved eye protection even if the motorcycle is equipped with a windshield.

For more information about NYS laws for motorcycle drivers, see NYS Vehicle & Traffic Law Excerpts (www.safeny.ny.gov/mcyc-vt.htm)

What kind of helmet should my teen wear while driving or riding on a motorcycle?

Both motorcycle drivers and passengers should always wear a Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) 218 approved motorcycle helmet. Helmets must have a sticker on the outside back of the helmet with the letters "DOT" to certify that the helmet meets or exceeds these safety standards. A full face helmet offers the highest level of protection in a crash.

"Novelty helmets" are illegal to wear in NYS. Novelty helmets can look like DOT-approved helmets, but they will not have the DOT label. These helmets are often smaller and lighter than helmets made to DOT standards and offer little protection to the driver in a crash. They lack the energy-absorbing foam that protects the brain during an impact.

Make sure to purchase a motorcycle helmet that fits properly. A knowledgeable salesperson can help your teen find a helmet that is the right size and shape. Replace motorcycle helmets that have been involved in any form of crash because the helmet will no longer provide the same level of protection.

Buy a helmet brand and size that fits well prior to adjustments. Adjust the chinstraps so that the helmet does not slide from side to side or front to back. For a proper fit, the helmet should sit squarely on top of the teen's head, covering the top of the forehead, and should not tilt in any direction.

How can I tell if a motorcycle is the right size for my teen?

Safety and comfort are the two most important things you need to consider when driving a motorcycle. A motorcycle fits correctly when the feet of the driver sitting on the motorcycle touch the ground. The controls should be easy to see and operate.

Should my teenager wear eye protection while driving a motorcycle?

Plastic motorcycle face shields help protect the entire face of the driver in a crash. The shield also offers protection from the wind, dust, insects, rain, and pebbles that can fly through the air. Goggles designed for motorcycles can provide protection for the eyes only. Eye goggles or face shields should be free of scratches, shatter-proof, give a clear view to either side, be fastened securely, permit air to pass through to reduce fogging, and have enough room to wear eyeglasses or sunglasses, if needed.

What kind of clothes should my teen wear while driving a motorcycle?

Arms and legs should be completely covered when driving a motorcycle, ideally by wearing leather or heavy denim. Always wear over-the-ankle boots and full-finger gloves, jackets and pants with padding which provide additional protection. Wearing brightly colored clothing with retro-reflective material makes it easier for other drivers to see motorcyclists and may reduce the likelihood of them being hit by other vehicles.

How should motorcycles be maintained?

To ensure safety, motorcycles should be properly maintained according to instructions in the motorcycle owner's manual. The motorcyclist should ensure that the lights and horn are working and both mirrors are adjusted for proper rear vision. Tires should be properly inflated and have legal tread depth. Good traction is important for safe handling and braking in normal and adverse situations.

What are some other tips for safe motorcycle driving?

  • Follow the speed limit! Speed is the number one cause of traffic crashes.
  • Most crashes between cars and motorcycles involve turning left. When preparing to cross traffic or turn left, drivers should take a second look to make sure it is safe to proceed.
  • Pull off the road or take shelter under an overpass during heavy rain. The road is most slippery during the first several minutes of a storm. If you must drive in the rain, staying in the tracks of the cars in front may improve the traction of the vehicle.
  • Be aware of surroundings when driving a motorcycle, scan the roadway constantly for dangers, and stay alert. Drivers should take a break and rest when tired.
  • Let other motorists know the driver's intentions. Flash brake lights periodically before stopping. Signal with directional lights or hand signals before turning. Doing these things will alert drivers behind the motorcycle of the need to be cautious.

What role do alcohol and certain drugs play in motorcycle crashes?

Alcohol is a contributing factor for many fatal crashes involving motorcycle drivers. No one should ever drive while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Should my teen take a motorcycle training course?

Motorcycle driver training courses are recommended for teens as well as all motorcyclists because they help drivers develop good basic driving techniques. More than 90% of drivers involved in crashes had no formal training.

The New York State Motorcycle Safety Program offers basic and advanced training courses.

Where can I find more information about motorcycle safety?