Governor's Traffic Safety Committee

Motorcycles, Mopeds & ATVs

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Be smart. Share the Road with Motorcycles


The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) has established a rider-funded motorcycle safety program as required by legislation signed in 1997. The primary purpose of the motorcycle safety program is to have rider education accessible and affordable throughout New York State. A program goal is to reduce the number of motorcyclist injuries and fatalities with an emphasis on rider education and motorist awareness of motorcycles. The program uses a nationally recognized motorcycle training curriculum developed by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF).

Key to the success of the program is DMV's partnership with the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF). MSF is a not-for-profit organization with the mission "to reduce motorcycle and motorcycle-related crashes, fatalities and injuries on the streets and highways of New York State through training, education and awareness."

MSF is responsible for the development and delivery of the motorcycle safety program, including oversight for the MSF RiderCourse®. The rider education program has expanded significantly since its inception. With greater promotion of the program and an increase in the number of registered motorcycles, the demand for rider education also continues to grow. Together, DMV, MSF and its cadre of certified MSF RiderCoaches are steadily making progress toward the goals of the motorcycle safety program. This program has provided license training for over 13,000 students annually since 2005, a remarkable accomplishment! We will continue to expand our training infrastructure to assure that rider education will continue to be available throughout the state to meet the increasing needs of the public.


The New York State Motorcycle Safety Program was created by Chapter 435 of the Laws of 1997, signed August 20, enacting Section 410-a of the Vehicle and Traffic Law. Section 410-a requires the Commissioner of the Department of Motor Vehicles to establish and implement a motorcycle safety program.  With this law, New York became the 46th state to establish a legislated motorcycle safety program. The enabling legislation increased motorcycle license and registration fees and provided a dedicated fund for motorcycle safety programs. Fund monies are to be used exclusively for the development and implementation of a statewide motorcycle safety program.


The Motorcycle Safety Program is funded by New York's motorcyclists from a portion of the motorcycle license and motorcycle registration fees. Beginning January 1, 1998, motorcyclists were assessed an additional 50 cents for each six months the license is valid. Beginning April 1, 1998, the commissioner was required to collect an additional $2.50 for each annual motorcycle registration. The additional revenues have been deposited into a separate motorcycle safety fund. Monies in this fund are used to implement the motorcycle safety program.

Program Administration

Section 410-a requires that DMV issue a request for proposal for a contract to coordinate the motorcycle safety program. DMV must contract with a "motorcycle riding training coordinating organization" to administer the program for five years. The legislation specifies that the organization have at least three years experience in the administration of a statewide motorcycle rider education program and have as its administrator an individual who has no financial or proprietary interest in a motorcycle training school or facility.

On October 13, 2008, DMV issued a request for proposal for a five-year contract to establish and administer a motorcycle safety program. On January 20, 2009, the Department of Motor Vehicles accepted a proposal from the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) to administer the statewide motorcycle safety program. The five-year contract in the amount of $6,325,000 was approved on May 28, 2009 and will be used to manage a motorcycle safety program consisting of rider education, program promotion and public awareness.

The contract includes components for rider training, instructor training, program promotion and public awareness.


Motorcycle safety advocates had tried for many years to establish an organized statewide motorcycle safety program in New York and other states. By 1993, 42 states had legislated motorcycle safety programs. While New York was ranked sixth amongst the states in the number of licensed motorcyclists and the number of registered motorcycles, there was no organized state-supported motorcycle safety initiative.

In 1993, the New York State Governor's Traffic Safety Committee and the Department of Motor Vehicles began working with the motorcycle safety advocates to develop a statewide motorcycle rider education program. These advocates included the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) and their New York State representative at the time, the Motorcycle Association of New York State, Inc. (MANYS), the Motorcycle Industry Council, the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA), American Bikers Aimed Toward Education (A.B.A.T.E.) of New York and the New York State Motorcycle Dealers Association. State and federal grant monies were provided to develop the infrastructure for a coordinated statewide rider education program.

In addition to funding for the motorcycle program, DMV began looking at incentives for novice motorcyclists to seek rider education. Using a team approach to review new initiatives, DMV researched the acceptability of the MSF RiderCourse® as an option to the motorcycle skills test. Based on the recommendation of this Road Test Waiver Project Team, DMV's Commissioner revised regulations in 1996 to allow this option to the motorcycle road test. The road test waiver is now available to anyone holding a valid New York driver's license and motorcycle permit who has successfully completed the 15-hour "MSF RiderCourse®" (also known as the Basic RiderCourse®) developed by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF). A description of the Motorcycle RiderCourse® can be found below.

In 1996, the training program continued to grow but funding for operations and further expansion was limited. The federal and state grants were provided as seed money to begin the statewide program. In 1997, legislation was signed creating a more permanent commitment to motorcycle safety. Beginning in 1998, the rider-funded motorcycle safety program was implemented.

In August 1998, DMV began a five-year contract with MANYS for the administration of the legislated motorcycle safety program. MANYS would continue to oversee the operation and expansion of the MSF training in New York. In 2003, DMV awarded a second five-year contract to continue its oversight role until contract expiration on February 3, 2009.

During January 2009 the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) accepted a proposal from the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) to administer the statewide motorcycle safety program. The five-year contract in the amount of $6,325,000 is used to manage a statewide motorcycle safety program consisting of rider education, program promotion and public awareness. The program is funded solely by New York's motorcyclists from a portion of the motorcycle license and registration fees.

In 2008, MSF RiderCourses® were offered at twenty-three training sites and by the end of 2010, classes were being offered by twenty-seven organizations at fifty-one training sites throughout New York.

Under the contract, student growth is projected to increase to 21,950 per year by 2013, including an annual growth of 10%. A total of 91,600 students are expected to be trained by the end of 2013.

The goal of the state's motorcycle safety program is to reduce the number of crashes, injuries and fatalities associated with motorcycling. The program developed by MSF will promote proper and prudent motorcycle operation while at the same time heightening awareness among the general public regarding sharing the road with motorcyclists.

Under the new contract, motorcycle safety program will continue to ensure motorcycle training is accessible throughout the state.

Programs & Solutions

New York State Motorcycle Road Test Waiver

DMV offers an option to the traditional motorcycle road test given at the DMV locations. A person is now eligible to secure a class M or MJ license provided that he or she is the holder of a valid "New York driver's license, and has successfully completed the 15-hour "Basic RiderCourse®" developed by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF). The course must be completed at a DMV/MSF approved training site. The course includes a written test and a skills test which must be passed, and the individual must have a motorcycle permit in order to receive the waiver.

The approved MSF course is offered in New York State through the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF). To find the nearest training site, you may access the MSF web site at or call them at 1-800-446-9227.

New York State Motorcycle Safety Program - Course Overview

"Motorcycles Make Sense - So Does Professional Training"

Motorcycle Safety Foundation - Motorcycle Rider Courses

Learn From the Pros

For many people, motorcycling is a fun sport as well as an energy-efficient means of transportation. However, motorcycling requires skill, concentration and reasonable precautions. Although it is possible to ride a motorcycle without specialized training, trial and error is a tough teacher of motorcycling skills. That's why virtually all motorcycle groups have endorsed the Motorcycle Safety Foundation's Motorcycle RiderCourse® (Basic RiderCourse® or BRC) for beginning riders; Basic RiderCourse - 2® (BRC2) for experienced riding skills; and the Advanced RiderCourse (ARC) for learning advanced specialized techniques.

The Course

The Basic RiderCourse® is designed for beginning riders. It was developed by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation and approved by the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles. It consists of classroom and on-motorcycle instruction including the following:

  1. Preparing to ride
  2. Turning, shifting and braking
  3. Street strategies
  4. Special situations
  5. Increasing riding skills
  6. Maintenance and insurance


Instructors for the course (known as RiderCoaches) are all certified by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation. All are motorcycle riders and have completed 80 plus hours of instructor/RiderCoach training. RiderCoaches are also required to attend professional development each year.

Provided by the Course

The Basic RiderCourse is taught using a lightweight (100cc - 350cc) motorcycle provided for class use. These motorcycles are restricted to off-street use only.

The Student Provides

Students provide the following protective clothing:

  1. Boots with walking heels, high enough to cover ankles;
  2. Long pants of denim, other heavy material or motorcycle riding pants;
  3. Leather gloves - full fingered and unlined but not too thin
  4. Long-sleeved jacket or shirt, made from denim or other heavy material;
  5. Approved eye protection;
  6. USDOT-approved motorcycle helmet. Some training sites have loaner helmets available, check with the site for information.

Course Incentive — Waiver of Skills Test

The motorcycle skills test, ordinarily required for a Class M motorcycle license, may be waived if a student successfully completes an approved Basic RiderCourse®. To be eligible for the motorcycle road test waiver, you must also possess a valid New York State driver license and motorcycle learner permit.

Program Accomplishments

Training Sites

With the support of the motorcycle safety fund, the training program continues to grow. The program has been effective in providing more rider education opportunities. At almost every training site, the scheduled courses are filled to capacity. A goal of the program is to open at least three training sites a year to meet the demand for quality rider education.

Training Sites in the New York State Program
YearNumber of Sites

Classes are being offered by twenty-seven organizations at fifty-one training sites throughout New York.

Students Trained

Each MSF-sponsored training site offers the Motorcycle Safety Foundation's Basic RiderCourse® (BRC). This 15-hour course provides the road test waiver. Most training sites also offer the MSF's Experienced RiderCourse® (ERC) which was rebranded in 2010 as the Basic RiderCourse-2 (BRC2). The BRC2 is a five to seven-hour core curriculum designed for experienced riders to refresh and improve their riding skills. In the BRC2, the students use their own motorcycles to gain practical experience and training in more advanced motorcycle skills.

With the continued support for the rider education program, the operation of the MSF training sites has been able to grow. This expansion is most evident in the number of motorcyclists trained in the Basic RiderCourse® over the years:

Number of Motorcyclists Trained
Year Number Trained in RiderCourse®
2000 4,491
2001 6,984
2002 9,155
2003 11,017
2004 12,176
2005 13,158
2006 13,572
2007 13,623
2008 14,541
2009 13,500
2010 15,169
2011 16,908

The following table shows the range of age and gender of students taking the Basic RiderCourse® in 2010. The distribution shows the universal popularity of motorcycling to all age groups.

2010 Basic RiderCourse® Students
Distribution by Age Group and Gender
Age Range Totals Male Female
Under 20 6.3% 5.4% 0.9%
20 - 24 17.9% 14.1% 3.8%
25 - 29 15.9% 12.3% 3.6%
30 -39 21.5% 15.5% 6.0%
40 - 49 21.7% 13.7% 8.0%
50 - 59 12.9% 8.6%% 4.3%
60+ 3.9% 3.1% 0.8%
Totals 100.00% 72.8% 27.4%

Training Motorcycles

The Basic RiderCourse® is taught using a lightweight (100cc - 350cc) motorcycle provided by the course. One advantage to the program is that aspiring motorcyclists are able to try motorcycling without the expense of purchasing a motorcycle. A second and, possibly, more important advantage the course offers the novice or non-operator is the opportunity to discover whether they can acquire the skills necessary to operate a motorcycle. They can accomplish this in a safe, controlled environment, without the dangers of the street and before making a sizeable investment.

Each training site must have a minimum of 15 training motorcycles per range to support the course needs. The Basic RiderCourse® is limited to a maximum of 12 students per class, using two instructors. The motorcycles are used off-street only.

MSF RiderCoaches/Instructors

With each new site, there is a need for more instructors, referred to as RiderCoaches. The motorcycle safety program provides for instructor development to meet that demand. To be certified as an MSF RiderCoach, applicants must be experienced riders and complete an intensive instructor training course. The RiderCoach Preparation Course is approximately 80 hours long, generally involving nine to ten days of training by a RiderCoach Trainer. MSF is continually recruiting, training and certifying new instructors as a part of its site development plan and support of existing training sites.

Program Activities

Program Promotion

May is Motorcycle Safety and Awareness Month

This year the month of May has been proclaimed as "Motorcycle Safety and Awareness Month". The Governor issued a Governor's Proclamation urging all motorists to show extra caution in sharing the road with motorcyclists.

Promotion Activities

DMV and MSF promote rider education and the motorcycle safety program throughout the year. DMV provides information on the Basic RiderCourse® in its Motorcycle Operator Manual (DMV publication MV-21MC) and other publications and on its internet site at DMV has developed and distributed a "Tips for Safer Motorcycling" brochure (Publication C-15).

MSF maintains a toll-free number - 1-800-446-9227 that automatically directs the caller to the nearest training site. MSF also maintains an internet site at In addition MSF has created a New York State Motorcycle Safety Program internet site at

Program information is distributed from displays at several motorcycling events throughout the year. MSF and DMV sponsor an exhibit at the annual International Motorcycle Show held at the Jacob Javits Center in New York City. They also have an exhibit at Americade, "the world's largest tour expo" held in the Village of Lake George during the second week of June. DMV's Communications Office has distributed motorcycle safety information at major auto shows, the New York State Fair and other events throughout the year.

Custom Motorcycle Plates

With the increased attention to motorcycles, there is also a desire by motorcyclists to feature their favorite cause on their motorcycle plate. DMV has introduced several motorcycle custom plates.  The first two custom plates designed specifically for motorcycles: the Harley Owners Group (H.O.G.) plate and the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) plate. The plates feature each organization's logo and are also available for cars and trucks. New York is the first state to offer these distinctive plates to members of H.O.G. and to supporters of the AMA.  DMV has added motorcycle plates for Blue Knights members. In 2003, DMV introduced motorcycle versions of the Purple Heart Recipient's and Military Veteran's plates. Many additional motorcycle plates are available.

Custom plate promotions provide another opportunity for DMV to promote motorcycle safety and the rider education program.

Safety Tips for Motorcyclists

Frequently Asked Questions

How many registered motorcycles and licensed motorcyclists are there in New York State?

In 2010 there were 665,552 motorcycle licenses and 340,260 motorcycle registrations in force in New York.

Where can I get motorcycle training?

The Motorcycle Safety Foundation's "Basic RiderCourse®" teaches basic riding skills, which are then applied to street riding situations using defensive riding strategies. To locate the nearest MSF training site, view the web site or call them at 1-800-446-9227.

Does New York State require motorcycle helmet use?

Yes. Section 381 of the Vehicle and Traffic Law requires any person operating or riding a motorcycle to wear a helmet. The helmet must be a type approved by the commissioner consistent with the requirements specified by section 571.218 of the federal motor vehicle safety standards. This section also states that it is unlawful to sell, offer for sale or distribute any protective helmets for use by the operators or passengers of motorcycles unless they are consistent with the regulations of the commissioner as provided in subdivision six of this section and within the requirements specified in section 571.218 of the federal motor vehicle safety standards.

Is special protective eyewear required when operating a motorcycle?

Yes, Section 381 of the Vehicle and Traffic Law requires any person operating a motorcycle to wear goggles or a face shield of a type approved by the Commissioner, even if the motorcycle is equipped with a wind screen. The Commissioner has adopted the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Z87.1 standard for personal eye and face protection for motorcycle operators. 15 NYCRR54.11 states that a motorcyclist may use any eye protection device that has been manufactured in conformity the American National Standard Institute's Z87.1 standard "Occupational and Educational Personal Eye and Face Protection Devices". ANSI Z87.1 personal eye and face protection can generally be identified by a "Z87" marking on the product. Prescription or made-to-order safety glasses may be used if the user can present written certification that they meet the Z87.1 standard.

Are motorcycle headlight modulators legal for use on motorcycles in New York State?

Yes, they are permissible. DMV "P" Memo, P-12, issued May 11, 2005 indicates that headlight modulators on motorcycles are legal in New York State. A "headlamp modulator" is a device that causes the intensity of the motorcycle headlamp to fluctuate and, therefore, to be more noticeable.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Regulation 49 CFR 571.108, Section 7.9.4 (Motorcycle headlamp modulation system) specifically allows motorcycles to have headlamp modulators. Because these devices are expressly permitted by federal regulations, they are legal in all states. Therefore, the motorcycles with headlamp modulators are permitted in New York State.

Is a helmet required when operating a moped?

There are three classes of limited use motorcycles (mopeds) based on maximum performance speeds. Class A mopeds have a top speed ranging from over 30 to 40 mph. Class B ranges from over 20 to 30 mph. Class C mopeds have a top speed of 20 mph or less. Helmet and eye protection are required when operating a Class A or B motorcycle. It is recommended that helmet and eye protection be worn when operating a Class C motorcycle.

Is there an age restriction for motorcycle passengers in New York State?

There is no age restriction for passengers on motorcycles in New York State.  According to Section 1251 of NYS Vehicle and Traffic Law, for anyone to ride as a passenger the motorcycle must be designed to carry more than one person, in which event a passenger may ride upon the permanent and regular seat.  "A person shall ride upon a motorcycle while sitting astride the seat, facing forward, with one leg on each side of the motorcycle, unless said person is seated in a sidecar affixed to said motorcycle."  Additionally, "No operator shall carry any person, nor shall any person ride, in a position that will interfere with the operation or control of the motorcycle or the view of the operator."  The passenger must also wear a DOT-approved motorcycle helmet.

What equipment is required for motorcycles or mopeds in New York State?

This information is available at the New York State Department of Motor Vehicle Internet Office Forms Page.  The form MV-529B (pdf), Equipment Required for Motorcycles (Including Limited Use Motorcycles), is available in pdf format.  (Print version, Adobe Acrobat® Reader is required.)

Can my motorcycle legally be fitted with a modified exhaust?

Section 381 of the Vehicle and Traffic Law establishes that no person shall operate a motorcycle on any highway which is: (1) not equipped with a muffler to prevent excessive or unusual noise; (2) equipped with a muffler from which the baffle plates, screens or other original internal parts have been removed or altered; (3) equipped with an exhaust device without internal baffles, known as "straight pipes"; or (4) equipped with an exhaust system that has been modified in a manner that will amplify or increase the noise emitted by the motor of such vehicle above that emitted by the exhaust system originally installed on the vehicle. Furthermore, no person shall operate a motorcycle on any highway which is equipped with an exhaust device that is intentionally designed to allow for the internal baffling to be fully or partially removed or interchangeable. This does not apply to a motorcycle manufactured or assembled prior to 1979 or a motorcycle registered as a limited use vehicle or certain all terrain vehicles.

Section 386 of the Vehicle and Traffic Law indicates it is unlawful for any person to operate or cause to be operated on a public highway any motorcycle, at any time, under any condition of grade, load, acceleration or deceleration in such a manner as to exceed the applicable A-weighted sound level set forth in table III. The maximum allowable sound levels in table III are based on a sound level measured at, or adjusted to, a distance of fifty feet from the center of the lane in which the motorcycle is traveling.

Maximum Speed Limit
35 miles per hour or less - 82dB (A) over 35 miles per hour - 86dB (A)

Where can I get training to operate an all terrain vehicle (ATV)?

ATV RiderCourseSM training is available through the ATV Safety Institute. For ATV training information call 1-800-887-ATVs (1-800-887-2887) or visit them online at

New York State DMV publishes the brochure: "ATV's - Information for Owners and Operators" (Publication C-29)