Here Is What You Need To Know About Motorcycle Laws Across The States

Luke Fitzpatrick

Rap artist Rihmeek Williams, AKA Meek Mill landed in New York slammers for breaking motorcycle laws. According to Billboard, the rapper was arrested for allegedly riding in an unsafe manner on the streets of Upper Manhattan. There’s nothing strange about the PD making an arrest when a person breaks the law. But what happens when the laws keep changing?

Meek Mill hails from Philadelphia. Pennsylvania law does not require adults - over 21 years - to ride with helmets. On the other hand, in New York, motorcycle laws require all riders to have helmets at all times.

Motorcycle laws across the States vary significantly. You may not want to keep up with what each state describes as illegal. But be assured that the principle ignorantia legis neminem excusat, or "ignorance of the law excuses no one" will always apply.

We are here to help. Here are the top motorcycle laws that differ across the States. Keep an eye on these laws. Officers will probably check these whenever you are flagged down.

Helmet laws

Like Mills, perhaps you hail from a state where wearing a helmet is not required by law, or is conditionally required by law. Only two States - Iowa and Illinois - don’t require riders to wear helmets. The rest have some kind of helmet law. Others have made it mandatory.

Studies reveal that helmets are effective in preventing 37% of fatal injuries in riders and 42% fatalities in passengers. We suggest that you always have one regardless of which state you are in. Besides, even if you are in Illinois, attending a safety course, and wearing your helmet whenever you are on the road could bring down your motorcycle insurance premiums.

Always wear DOT-certified helmets. Such a helmet would have the manufacturer name, model, the text FMVSS218, and DOT printed.

Motorcycle laws on licensing

The next most likely check a black and white would perform is on your license and registration. Most motorcycle laws on licensing categorize rider’s licenses according to the engine displacement. Fourteen states vary their licensing regulations based on engine size. Licensing regulations often entail:

  • Regulations on the engine size and operator's age. Younger operators are often restricted to smaller engines.
  • Matching licenses with engines of the same displacement as those used during testing.
  • Rules that align rider education with specific types of engine displacement.

23 states require riders to hold a valid driver's license before getting a motorcycle one or a validation. The engine (and make) of your bike also affects the motorcycle insurance rate. A large (expensive) bike will cost you more than a smaller (cheaper) one. The insurer will also check your licensing details if you are involved in a mishap. It is better to have a valid license at all times.

Eye protection

Like the helmet rules, eye protection rules are meant for your safety first. You could wear fancy eyewear, but make sure it does not affect visibility and protects you from flying debris while you are on the road.

Out of the 36 states which require eye protection, 22 make it mandatory for the operator. The remaining 30 states have some exemption for different categories of riders. 23 states are exempt from some kind of protective eyewear if the bike’s windshield is 15 inches high.

  • In Indiana, only riders who are below 18 years must wear protective eyewear.
  • In Massachusetts and South Carolina, the law exempts riders who are over 21years from wearing eye protection. For those who are below 21 years, there are windscreen conditions.
  • Fourteen states, including, Texas, California, and Idaho exempt riders from wearing eye protection. Some limit it to riders traveling at speeds below 35mph.

Motorcycle noise restrictions laws

The sound of a loud exhaust could be exciting to you, but not to your next-door neighbor. Many communities across different states have rules restricting noise levels including exhausts.

If you must hear the loud rumble of the exhaust, keep it to the open roads. As for the laws, these states allow for open-exhaust and have no requirement for a muffler: Alaska, Wyoming, Texas, Arkansas, Alabama, Georgia, and Vermont.

Motorcycle daytime headlights laws

Also known as daytime running lights, these rules have also become popular due to compelling evidence of the safety benefits. Daytime running lights may seem like they do not make much of a difference when the sun is bright. However, research shows that it increases your conspicuity to other road users and reduces motorcycle crash risk by about 4-20%.

It is mandatory in more than half of the states to have your motorcycle daytime headlights running. Some states have modulation requirements (full-beam or dimmed), while others states might specify something for a specific model.

Many other laws differ across different states. Some might pertain to the structure of your bike, whilst other laws might affect passengers or how you ride. That said, motorcycle laws are meant to enhance safety.

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Academic Speaker | Freelance Journalist | I have contributed to a variety of publications such as Forbes, Tech In Asia, and The Next Web. I cover a variety of topics ranging from fintech, big data, AI, blockchain, to lifestyle and breaking news stories.


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