Motorcycle Safety

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Look Twice, Save a Life!

Motorcycle riding is more popular in New York than ever. Motorcycling can be a fun sport and an energy-efficient means of transportation. However, motorcyclists are about 28 times more likely to die in a crash than people in passenger cars. Motorcycling requires skill, concentration and reasonable precautions. Motorcyclists and other drivers can make the road a safer place for all by following these tips.

View our motorcycle safety publications and order available printed copies:

Tips for Safe Motorcycle Riding

DOT stickers on the helmet provide examples of what to look for to ensure a motorcycle helmet meets the required safety standards
  • Be sure you are properly licensed.
  • Participate in a NYS DMV-approved rider education program near you. The Motorcycle Safety Foundation's Basic RiderCourse® (BRC), covers preparing to ride; turning, shifting, and braking; street strategies; special situations; increasing riding skills; and motorcycle maintenance and insurance. Upon completion of the BRC, students will receive a waiver for the traditional road test. The course must be taken at a NYS Department of Motor Vehicle-approved location. The BRC course includes a written and on-motorcycle skills test. You must pass both sections to qualify for the road test waiver. You must also have a valid motorcycle learner's permit. To receive a learner's permit, you must first pass a written exam at a NYS Department of Motor Vehicle testing location.
  • Wear a US DOT approved motorcycle helmet. You will know a motorcycle helmet is approved because it will feature a DOT sticker on the back. "Novelty helmets" are illegal in NYS. A white helmet makes you more visible. Your helmet should fit 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 your head, covering the top of the forehead, and should not tilt in any direction. A full-face helmet offers the highest level of protection in a crash.
  • Wear high quality brightly colored or reflective riding gear. This includes over-the-ankle boots; heavyweight pants, jackets, full finger gloves; and shatter proof eye protection. Only use tinted eyewear during the day.
  • Maintain your motorcycle. Ensure that your motorcycle is working well. All of your lights and horn must be functioning. Ensure your tires are properly inflated and have legal tread depth.
  • Drive sober. Never ride impaired by alcohol or drugs.
  • Obey the speed limit. Observe and obey all traffic laws, signs, and signals.
  • Be alert and expect the unexpected. Watch out for animals that might dart out quickly.
  • Maintain the most visible lane position. Avoid blind spots of other vehicles, especially commercial trucks.
  • Avoid riding on in bad weather, especially right after it starts to rain.
  • Assume that other motorists do not see you. Do your best to be seen by:
    • Using reflective decals on your motorcycle and motorcycle helmet.
    • Using hand signals.
    • Using auxiliary driving lights or headlight modulators.
  • Look Twice and Save a Life! Be aware that motorcycles can easily disappear in your blind spot or be hidden behind objects such as signs, trees, bushes, fences or other vehicles.
  • Allow a greater following distance behind motorcyclists. They may not brake when slowing down, so you cannot depend on seeing their brake lights. Bad weather or other road conditions may make it more difficult for motorcyclists to stop.
  • Stay alert to motorcyclists' movement in traffic. They may change their position in a lane to improve their visibility or avoid unsafe road conditions.
  • Assume a motorcycle is closer than it appears when you are preparing to turn. It can be difficult to judge a motorcycle's speed and distance because of their smaller size.
  • Do not assume that motorcyclists are turning, as their turn signals are not self-canceling.
  • Drive sober. Never ride impaired by alcohol or drugs.
  • Obey the speed limit. Observe and obey all traffic laws, signs, and signals.
  • NYS does not have a minimum age for motorcycle passengers. Children that ride with you must be able to do so safely. They should be old enough to understand the dangers of motorcycle riding as well as the importance of riding safely. If children do ride, they need the proper gear, just like adults. This includes a motorcycle helmet that fits properly, eye protection, long pants and a jacket made of durable material, gloves and boots or other durable shoes that cover the ankle and will not slip off. All passengers need to be able to sit properly behind the driver, with one leg on each side of the motorcycle.
  • Teens can get a motorcycle license. Teens must first get a learner's permit by taking a written exam at a DMV testing center. The NYS Department of Motor Vehicles recommends a minimum of 30 hours of practice before taking the licensure test. When a learner is practicing, a driver with a valid motorcycle license must supervise him/her. The supervising driver must be within sight and no more than ¼ mile from the learner at all times. Visit DMV's Resources for the Younger Driver page for more information about restriction on learner's permits and junior licenses.
    • 16 years old: Limited, junior motorcycle license (Class MJ).
    • 17 years old: Standard motorcycle license with driver's education (Class M).
    • Holding a Class MJ license allows you to ride motorcycles under certain restrictions as outlined in New York's New Driver Program. The NY Department of Motor Vehicles will upgrade your Class MJ license to a standard Class M license when you: Turn 18 years old OR are at least 17 years old and can provide the New York DMV with a Student Certificate of Completion (MV-285) from an accredited driver's education program.
  • It is up to you to know if your 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.
  • Collaborate with schools, parents, and health providers.
    • Provide educational materials to driver education classes and health education programs.
    • Partner with service organizations, like Kiwanis and Elks, or motorcycle rider groups to promote safety among members.
    • Partner with a local motorcycle group to distribute educational materials at a motorcycle rally.
    • Sponsor a traffic safety day at a school or community center and feature motorcycle safety.
    • Attend parent teacher group, like PTO and PTA, meetings to speak about motorcycle safety for teens.
    • Provide motorcycle safety information and publications to schools to include in health education and driver's education classes.
    • Provide motorcycle safety information to physicians.
  • Involve the media.
    • Have your organization or an emergency department physician write a Letter to the Editor of a newspaper to increase public awareness about the problem of motorcycle injuries and provide injury prevention information about motorcycle safety.
    • Submit a news release, like this one, to local newspapers and radio public service announcements to radio stations about the problem of motorcycle injuries and provide more injury prevention information about motorcycle safety.
    • Submit articles on motorcycle safety to community publications, such as faith-based or school newsletters and bulletins.
    • Disseminate motorcycle safety educational materials electronically through Listservs, newsletters, and other communication venues used by your agency.
    • Speak about motorcycle safety on a radio talk show.
    • Post motorcycle safety materials on your website and provide a link to the New York State Department of Health and New York State Department of Motor Vehicles.
    • Respond to breaking news stories involving motorcycle crashes to remind riders about safety precautions.
    • Use local cable access channels to convey motorcycle safety messages.