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Motorcycle Laws & Licensing for Illinois, United States

Motorcycle Laws & Licensing for Illinois, United States

1. Introduction

When you ride on a motorcycle, you tend to focus on enjoying the experience of cruising on either smooth or bumpy pavement. But just like with any other kind of vehicle, you have to be responsible while behind the controls. You must respect the rules of the road, be aware of other drivers, and handle your motorcycle in a safe manner. Throughout the United States, each state comes with its own set of regulations and restrictions regarding what motorcyclists can do.


Regardless of whether you are a resident of Illinois or an out-of-state tourist, it would be in your best interests to read this infographic so as you can familiarize yourself with Illinois’s motorcycle laws and licensing process.

2. Illinois Motorcycle Insurance

Photo credit : thejakartapost.com

As motorcycle accidents in Illinois can happen without warning to even the most experienced of riders, all motorcyclists are required to own Illinois motorcycle insurance before being able to operate their vehicles. Owning liability insurance coverage proves that you are financially responsible and can be held liable for an accident that you are found responsible for. Whenever you take out your motorcycle, you must carry proof of ownership just in case you need to show local law enforcement and other parties.


Your Illinois liability insurance coverage must be able to cover the minimum costs for the following accident-related fees:

  • $25,000 for bodily injury to a person per accident
  • $50,000 for bodily injuries to multiple people per accident
  • $20,000 for property damages sustained per accident

This required Illinois motorcycle insurance provides compensation for medical bills, loss of property, or any pain and suffering to other parties that were affected in an accident. If you wish to provide protection for your health and property, you would have to acquire other forms of insurance coverage. While the following insurance coverage are optional, you may want to consider them as they provide financial aid if certain circumstances occur during an accident:

  • Collision coverage
  • Uninsured coverage
  • Underinsured coverage
  • Comprehensive coverage

3. Illinois Motorcycle Helmet Laws

Illinois Motorcycle Helmet Laws
Illinois Motorcycle Helmet Laws

Unlike the majority of states in the U.S., Illinois does not possess a defined set of motorcycle helmet laws. Thus, motorcyclists regardless of age are not required to wear protective headgear when operating their vehicles. But it is best to have an approved motorcycle helmet always on since they are integral in protecting your neck and head from severe or fatal injuries.


As of recent years, the majority of motorcycle fatalities are the result of motorcyclists not wearing protective headgear during high-speed collisions. The statistics laid out below show the dire need for approved motorcycle helmets in Illinois:

  • Though motorcycles only made up 3% to 4% of vehicles registered in Illinois, they have made up 15% of motor vehicle fatalities in recent years
  • Motorcycle fatalities have been steadily growing as it jumped at least 19% during 2012
  • In 2016, about 151 motorcycle accident made up the 1,000 fatal accidents
  • In 2017, about 153 motorcycle accidents made up the 998 fatal accidents
  • In 2018, about 118 motorcycle accidents made up the 948 fatal accidents

Should you resolve to wear an approved motorcycle helmet as you travel throughout Illinois, make sure to pick a three-quarter or full-face helmet. Both of these have been manufactured by the Snell Memorial Foundation and follow the safety standards set by the U.S. Department of Transportation.


When acquiring an approved motorcycle helmet, look for the features listed in the table below when searching so you can find one that offers the most protection for your head and eyes:


Requirements Three-Quarter Helmet Full-Face Helmet
Has the Department of Transportation (DOT) sticker ✔️ ✔️
Contours around your head to fit snugly  ✔️ ✔️
No signs of damage  Ex:// cracks, loose padding, scratches, or frayed straps ✔️ ✔️
Has a face shield with no scratches ✔️
Includes separate eye protection with no scratches Ex:// goggles, glasses  ✔️
Has a hard and durable outer shell that is shatter-resistant ✔️ ✔️
Gives you a clear, peripheral view of your surroundings ✔️ ✔️
Securely fastened with neck- or chin-strap ✔️ ✔️
Allows airflow without fogging up  ✔️ ✔️
Can allow you to wear sunglasses underneath ✔️ ✔️

4. Illinois Motorcycle License Laws

4.1 Illinois Motorcycle Instruction Permit

You can begin applying for an Illinois motorcycle instruction permit if you are at least 16 years old or older.


You will have to pay a fee of $20 if you wish to be issued an Illinois motorcycle instruction permit.


Listed below are the requirements you will need to fulfill to obtain an Illinois instruction permit. Depending on your age when you approach the final step, the list of criteria may differ between motorcyclists:


Requirements Applicants Ages  16 to 17 Applicants Ages  18 and Above
Can only operate during the daylight hours ✔️ ✔️
Pay the required fees ✔️ ✔️
Must complete IDOT Motorcycle Rider Education Course ✔️
Pass the vision exam ✔️ ✔️
Pass the knowledge test ✔️ ✔️
May only ride under the supervision of a 21-year-old or older with at least a year of driving experience ✔️ ✔️
Valid for 12 months ✔️
Valid for 24 months ✔️

4.2 Illinois Class M License

You can begin applying for your motorcycle endorsement or a Class M license upon reaching at least the age of 16.


You will have to pay a fee of $10 if you are being issued an Illinois motorcycle license for the first time or add an upgrade to your existing Illinois driver’s license. If you wish to renew your Illinois motorcycle license, you must pay a fee of $5.


Listed below are the requirements you will need to fulfill to obtain a Illinois motorcycle license. Depending on your age when you approach the final step, the list of criteria may differ between motorcyclists:


Requirements Applicants Ages  16 to 17 Applicants Ages  18 and Above
Have a valid Illinois driver’s license ✔️* ✔️*
Completed an IDOT Motorcycle Rider Education Course ✔️ ❌*
Provide proof of Illinois motorcycle insurance ✔️ ✔️
Provide proof of Illinois vehicle registration ✔️ ✔️
Fill out the appropriate driver’s license application ✔️ ✔️
Must have the consent of a parent or legal guardian if you are a minor ✔️
Provide your social security number ✔️ ✔️
Pay required fees ✔️ ✔️
Present valid photo I.D. ✔️ ✔️
Take a photo ✔️ ✔️
Take vision exam ✔️ ✔️
Pass the knowledge test ✔️ ✔️*
Pass the skills test ✔️ ✔️*
Provide proof of U.S. citizenship ✔️ ✔️
Provide proof of residency in Illinois ✔️ ✔️

*If you are over the age of 18, you are not required to enroll in a IDOT Motorcycle Rider Education Course. However, if you submit proof of completion, you will have the option of waiving both the written and riding portions of the Illinois motorcycle license test.


*If you are under the age of 18, you are required to take the IDOT Motorcycle Rider Education Course to get both the instruction permit and Class M license. However, you cannot waive and are still required to pass both parts of the Illinois motorcycle license test.

4.3 Illinois Motorcycle License Test

Written Portion:

  • Will be completed on touch-screen computers
  • Complete 15 multiple-choice questions
  • Questions will be based on content from Illinois Motorcycle Operator Manual
  • Requires a passing grade of 80% or higher

Riding Portion:

  • Will be conducted in a controlled, off-street area.
  • Your motorcycle will be subjected to a pre-ride inspection to confirm it meets safety standards.
  • Demonstrate basic understanding of motorcycle operation.
  • You will be tested on your ability to stay within the speed limit, adjusting speed and position, maintaining visibility, operating under stress, accelerating, braking, turning, stopping, and swerving
  • The examiner will grade you based on how well you ride at safe speeds, stay within the lanes, and demonstrate riding maneuvers

You will fail the Illinois motorcycle license test if:

  • If your motorcycle drops or falls at any time
  • Attempt an unsafe act
  • Do not finish within the time limit

5. Illinois Motorcycle Passenger Laws

In Illinois, there is no minimum age requirement for motorcycle passengers. Because the safety of a motorcycle passenger is dependent on the operator, you must make the necessary preparations to securely transport him/her. Your motorcycle passenger is not required to wear a motorcycle helmet either, but you should urge him/her to put it on for their own safety. Also, make sure that your passenger is not carrying any packages or acting in a disruptive manner that will impede your ability to ride a motorcycle. Additional criteria to consider when deciding who can ride with you include the following:

  • Your passenger must be able to reach the footrests
  • Your passenger must be able to understand and follow your directions
  • Your motorcycle should only be able to transport one other person

Your motorcycle is only fit to carry an additional person if it has the necessary equipment meant to secure a motorcycle passenger. These include a designated passenger seat and adjustable footrests. It is illegal for your passenger to be placed in front of you or hang both legs off to one side. Thus, you can only position the passenger seat in either one of the following positions:

  • At the back of a large driver’s seat
  • Towards the rear with a separate saddle
  • Fixed to the side as a sidecar

6. Illinois Lane Splitting Laws

Although not explicitly stated, it is illegal for motorcyclists to practice any form of lane splitting in Illinois. Because motorcycles have a smaller design and can accelerate faster than other motor vehicles, attempting lane splitting may surprise other drivers who may not spot you. Therefore, motorcyclists are not allowed to engage in the following behavior while traversing Illinois’s laned roads and highways:

  • You cannot ride on top of the dividing lines between lanes
  • You cannot ride in between adjacent rows of vehicles that are stopped
  • You cannot overtake another vehicle sharing the same lane

Because motorcycles have better maneuverability compared to other motor vehicles, riders are entitled to certain rights for how they may act when on the road. Remember that you can attempt the following when riding your motorcycle so long as the conditions are safe:

  • You are allowed to make full use of the space within your current lane
  • You can only share a lane with another motorcycle if:
    • Both parties stay apart at least two abreast
    • Both parties consent beforehand

7. Illinois Motorcycle Safety Features

As periodic inspections of your motorcycle are not heavily enforced in Illinois, it is up to you to set aside time to examine the state of your vehicle. Looking over the machinery, you may be surprised to discover damage you may not have noticed before. Dents in the exhaust pipes, scuffs on the chassis, or punctures in the tires. As a motorcycle does not have redundant systems, any primary component that starts to fail will be detrimental to the vehicle’s overall functionality. Applying repairs or maintenance to your motorcycle while it is still parked will reduce the risk of accidents or mechanical failure while it is in motion.


Listed below is the required equipment your motorcycle must be outfitted with and needs to be kept in working order. They are integral to your vehicle’s visibility and performance while you are riding through Illinois:

  • Horn
  • Wheels
  • Tires
  • Handlebars
  • Front and Rear Brakes
  • Controls
  • Headlight
  • License plate light
  • Taillight
  • Stoplight
  • Reflector
  • Exhaust system
  • Muffler
  • Rearview mirrors
  • Windshield

8. Sources

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