Motorcycles & Mopeds
Motorcycle Safety & Awareness in New York State
Motorcycle riding is more popular in New York than ever. There are more than 750,000 licensed motorcyclists and that number continues to grow with each passing year. For many people, motorcycling is a fun sport as well as an energy-efficient means of transportation. However, motorcycling can be dangerous. It requires skill, concentration and reasonable precautions.
Motorcyclists are about 28 times more likely to die in a crash than people in passenger cars. Motorcyclists continue to be overrepresented in traffic-related fatalities; Despite representing only 3% of all registered motor vehicles, motorcyclists account for 14% of all traffic-related fatalities (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2018).
What are we doing about motorcycle safety?
Improving the safety of motorcyclists continues to be a priority for the state's highway safety program. Since motorcycles share the road with much larger vehicles, a combination of strategies must be used to ensure safe riding practices and awareness of motorcyclists on our roadways. New York State has a comprehensive motorcycle safety program that supports motorcycle awareness, motorcycle helmet usage, responsible use of alcohol, and rider education, skill development and licensing.
- New York State Motorcycle Safety Program (NYSMSP)
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).
All MSF-sponsored training sites participating in the New York State Motorcycle Safety Program offer the 18-hour Basic Rider Course (BRC) and most offer the 8-hour Basic Rider Course 2 License/Waiver Course (BRC2-LW). The BRC, geared towards beginning riders, covers the basics of operating a motorcycle and mental strategies for safe operation. The BRC2-LW is a condensed version of the BRC and is geared toward riders who have had a motorcycle permit for at least one year and have on-road experience and basic street riding skills. Currently, there are over 20 training schools with over 40 training ranges that deliver rider training throughout New York State.
As an alternative to the traditional motorcycle road test given at the DMV, 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 either the 18-hour Basic Rider Course or the 8-hour Basic Rider Course 2 License/Waiver Course.
For more information or to find a training site near you, please visit the NYSMSP's website at http://www.nysmsp.org or call them at 1 (800) 446-9227.
The Motorcycle Safety Program is funded by New York's motorcyclists from a portion of the motorcycle license and motorcycle registration fees. These fees are used exclusively for the implementation and administration of the statewide motorcycle safety program.
- Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month
The month of May has been proclaimed as "Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month." The Governor issued a Proclamation urging all motorists to show extra caution in sharing the road with motorcyclists. During the month of May, the Governor's Traffic Safety Committee (GTSC) highlights important safety messages via press releases, public service announcements and social media posts.
- Motorcycle Helmet Law
New York was the first state in the nation to adopt a universal motorcycle helmet law. This law, effective as of January 1, 1967, requires any person operating or riding a motorcycle to wear a Department of Transportation (DOT)-approved helmet. Helmets are estimated to be 37% effective in preventing fatal injuries to motorcycle riders and 41% for motorcycle passengers.
- Promotional Activities and Event Participation
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 the International Auto Show, the New York State Fair and other events throughout the year.
- Motorcycle Awareness Campaigns
GTSC promotes motorcycle awareness at gas stations located throughout New York State. Motorcycle awareness messages are affixed to fuel pump toppers and nozzle handles throughout the riding season, representing a unique opportunity to reach a variety of road users.
- Motorcycle Enforcement Trainings
The motorcycle safety and enforcement training program "Practical Guidelines for Motorcycle Enforcement" continues to be a popular and effective training initiative for law enforcement officers across the state. GTSC, the New York State Association of Chiefs of Police (NYSACOP), the Town of Colonie Police Department and the State Police collaborate on the instruction for this one-day regional training course. The training curriculum includes an in-depth review of motorcycle safety and motorcycle laws.
The course is designed to provide police officers with hands-on knowledge and skills to educate motorcyclists and the public on motorcycle safety and enhance enforcement efforts to reduce the number of deaths and injuries from motorcycle-related traffic crashes. The training also introduces law enforcement to national and state-specific enforcement issues through its modules covering license endorsements and registrations, required motorcycle safety equipment (helmets), common motorcycle operation violations, crash investigation, strategies to conduct safe stops and avoid pursuits, and the detection of impaired motorcyclists.
To date, over 1,300 law enforcement officers have successfully completed this training in New York State.
- Share the Road Summit
In 2018, GTSC hosted the state's first-ever Share the Road Summit, an event dedicated entirely to motorcycle safety and awareness. This one-day summit, held on Friday, September 14th at the Glenn H. Curtiss Museum in Hammondsport, NY, attracted approximately 118 motorcyclists, general motorists, law enforcement partners and other traffic safety professionals.
- 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. For more information, please visit Motorcycle Custom Plates at NYS DMV.
What can you do about motorcycle safety?
Whether a motorcyclist or passenger vehicle, always make sure to share the road safely. Our roadways support a very diverse user group — ranging from pedestrians and bicyclists to commercial motor vehicles and horse and buggies.
No one wants to be disrespected and intentionally placed in danger. Treat others with respect and don't allow yourself to get caught up in road-rage situations.
- Tips for Motorcyclists:
- Protect your melon! Always wear a DOT-approved helmet and eye protection. "Novelty Helmets" are not approved and offer little protection to the rider in a crash. In fact, they are illegal to wear on New York roadways.
- Always wear high quality riding gear designed to protect the rider during a fall. This includes over-the-ankle boots, full finger gloves with padding in addition to jackets and pants with armor protection at impact points.
- Be conspicuous. Wear high visibility vests, garments with reflectorized features and accessories to boost your visibility to other drivers. Increased conspicuity may reduce your chances of being involved in a crash!
- Maintain your motorcycle properly. Ensure all of your lights and horn are working and both mirrors are adjusted. Make sure your tires are properly inflated and have legal tread depth. Remember, motorcycles maintain a smaller tire contact patch on the roadway when compared to other vehicles. Good traction is a key component to safe handling and braking in normal and adverse situations.
- Maintain a high level of awareness. Scan the roadway constantly for dangers and ride alert. If you are tired, take a break and re-energize to boost your concentration.
- Drive sober. Never ride impaired by alcohol or drugs and discourage other riders from making a bad choice.
- Most crashes between cars and motorcycles involve turning left. If you are preparing to cross traffic or turn left, take a second look to make sure it is safe to proceed.
- SLOW DOWN! Speed is the number one cause of traffic crashes - PERIOD! Slow down, take your time and maintain control of the motorcycle.
- Allow adequate space between you and the vehicle in front of you. Use the "two second" rule as a safety zone.
- Observe and obey all traffic laws, signs, and signals.
- Let other motorists know your intentions. Signal when you turn with your directional lights or hand signals. Also, flashing your brake light periodically before you stop will alert drivers behind you to be cautious!
- Tips for Other Motorists Concerning Motorcyclists:
- Watch for motorcycles. Be aware of motorcycles sharing our roadways during all seasons, but particularly during the spring and summer months when riding is most popular.
- Yield to motorcycles — don't make a rash decision and turn quickly in front of an on-coming motorcycle as it may be traveling faster than it appears!
- Look Twice and Save a Life! Check your mirrors and blind spots for motorcycles before changing lanes. Also, when negotiating busy intersections, look twice for motorcycles before proceeding safely! They have a smaller frontal area and may be hard to see.
- Be a responsible driver. Ensure your vehicle is in safe operating condition and that all of your safety equipment is properly adjusted. Observe and obey all traffic laws, signs, and signals.
- Stay focused on the road and your surroundings. Never drive distracted. Don't let cell phones and other activities distract you from your core mission — driving safely!
- Drive sober. Never drive impaired by alcohol or drugs and discourage others from doing so. Impaired driving is an indiscriminate killer with no demographic barriers!
Questions and comments regarding the statewide Motorcycle Safety and Awareness Program should be directed to:
Aubrey L. Feldman, MPH, CPH, CHES®
Highway Safety Program Representative
Governor's Traffic Safety Committee
New York State Department of Motor Vehicles
6 Empire State Plaza, Room 410B
Albany, NY 12228