motorcycle 101 guides

Motorcycle Laws & Licensing for New York, United States

Motorcycle Laws & Licensing for New York, United States

1. Introduction

Whether you travel through the rural or urban regions of New York, all motorcyclists need to be well informed of the rules of the road and how to operate two-wheeled vehicles. Before you even embark on New York’s highways, you need to have the appropriate documentation, protective gear, and motorcycle equipment. You then have to become familiar with regulations when it comes to carrying passengers and attempting lane splitting. If you are a novice, you will have to know all of this information plus the process for earning the credentials to handle a motorcycle.


This blog post will provide an overview of the essential motorcycle laws and a step-by-step explanation of the licensing process in the state of New York.

2. New York Motorcycle Insurance

New York Motorcycle Insurance
Photo Credit: lexinter.net

To be allowed to register and operate your motorcycle in New York City, you will have to acquire New York liability insurance coverage. It must have been issued by a company licensed by the NY State Department of Financial Services and certified by the NY State DMV. Whenever you are riding your motorcycle, you must carry proof of ownership on your person or secured somewhere on your motorcycle. You must be able to produce the relevant documents when requested by local law enforcement or affected parties following an accident. Failure to produce New York motorcycle insurance will result in hefty fines plus the suspension of your vehicle registration or driver’s license.


Your New York 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 the death of a person per accident
  • $50,000 for bodily injuries to multiple per accident
  • $100,000 for the death of multiple people per accident
  • $10,000 for property damages sustained per accident

If you wish to protect your health and property, you will need to acquire optional forms of motorcycle insurance coverage. As these are not mandatory, only purchase what you can afford and what will be useful under specific circumstance during an accident:

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

3. New York Motorcycle Helmet Laws

New York Motorcycle Helmet Laws
New York Motorcycle Helmet Laws

As New York follows a universal motorcycle helmet policy, all motorcyclists regardless of age are required to wear protective headgear when they are operating their vehicles in this state.


Recent studies have shown that it is overall beneficial to have a motorcycle helmet handy as it has been instrumental as a safety precaution during collisions and accidents:

  • Motorcycle helmets help prevent 37% of fatal injuries to riders and 42% of fatal injuries for passengers
  • Motorcycle helmets help prevent 67% of brain injuries in crashes
  • Motorcyclists without protective headgear are three times more likely to suffer brain injuries in crashes
  • Head injury is the leading cause of death in motorcycle crashes

When browsing for an approved motorcycle helmet, you should pick out one that was made by the Snell Memorial Foundation. It should also meet or exceed the safety standards for the U.S. Department of Transportation. The two types of motorcycle helmets that provide the best protection and visibility are the three-quarter and full-face helmets.


Listed in this table below are the features that your motorcycle helmet is required to have if you wish to operate a motorcycle in New York:


Requirements Three-Quarter Helmet Full-Face Helmet
Has the Department of Transportation (DOT) sticker ✔️ ✔️
Contours around your head to fit snugly due to comfort padding ✔️ ✔️
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 ✔️ ✔️
Has an impact-absorbing liner inside the helmet ✔️ ✔️
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. New York Motorcycle License Laws

4.1 New York Class MJ License/Learner’s Permit

You can begin applying for a New York Class MJ license if you are at least 16 years old or above.


Depending on your age and county, the fee you will have to pay to be issued a New York motorcycle learner’s permit valid for one year will differ:


Age Range Price of Class MJ License Price of Class MJ License (MCTD Fee)
16 to 16 1/2 $85 $95*
16 1/2 to 17 $81.25 $90.25*
17 to 17 1/2 $97.50 $107.50*
17 1/2 to 18 $93.75 $102.75*
18 to 18 1/2 $85 $95*
18 1/2 to 21 $81.25 - $85 $90.25 - $95*
21 and Older $68.75 - $72.50 $77.75 - $82.50*

*If you live in one of the following counties, you must pay an additional Metropolitan Commuter Transportation District fee:

  • Bronx
  • Kings (Brooklyn)
  • New York (Manhattan)
  • Queens
  • Richmond (Staten Island)
  • Dutchess
  • Nassau
  • Orange
  • Putnam
  • Rockland
  • Suffolk
  • Westchester

To be given the MJ License, you must complete the following tasks and fulfill all of the listed criteria:

  • If you are under 18 years old:
    • Complete a State approved Motorcycle Ride Education Course
  • Present identification documents
  • Provide proof of Delaware residency
  • Provide proof of U.S. citizenship
  • Provide your Social Security Number
  • Take a photo
  • Pass the knowledge exam
  • Pass the vision exam
  • Pay the required fees

When you are practicing with a New York Class MJ license and under the age of 18, you will have to comply with the following restrictions as you practice:

  • You must be supervised by at least a 21-year-old with a valid motorcycle license
  • Your supervisor must be within ¼ miles of you at all times
  • You cannot operate at the following locations:
    • On any street within a park in New York City
    • On any bridge or tunnel under the jurisdiction of the Tri-borough Bridge and Tunnel Authority
    • On the Cross County, Hutchinson River, Saw Mill River, or State parkways in Westchester County
    • In a DMV road test area
  • Your driving privileges will vary depending on which region in New York you reside in:
    • Upstate New York
    • New York City
    • Long Island

4.2 New York Class M License

You are eligible to receive a New York Class M license if you are at least 17 years old or above.


Depending on your age and county, the fee you will have to pay to be issued a New York Class M license will differ:


Age Range Price of Class MJ License Price of Class MJ License (MCTD Fee)
16 to 16 1/2 $85 $95*
16 1/2 to 17 $81.25 $90.25*
17 to 17 1/2 $97.50 $107.50*
17 1/2 to 18 $93.75 $102.75*
18 to 18 1/2 $85 $95*
18 1/2 to 21 $81.25 - $85 $90.25 - $95*
21 and Older $68.75 - $72.50 $77.75 - $82.50*

*If you live in one of the following counties, you must pay an additional Metropolitan Commuter Transportation District fee:

  • Bronx
  • Kings (Brooklyn)
  • New York (Manhattan)
  • Queens
  • Richmond (Staten Island)
  • Dutchess
  • Nassau
  • Orange
  • Putnam
  • Rockland
  • Suffolk
  • Westchester

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


Requirements Applicants Ages
Below 18
Applicants Ages
18 and Above
Have a valid New York driver’s license ✔️ ✔️
Have at least 30 hours of practice with at least 10 hours in moderate to heavy traffic ✔️ ✔️
Held onto a New York motorcycle learner’s permit for at least six months ✔️ ✔️
Complete a New York State Motorcycle Safety Program Basic Rider Course ✔️* ❌*
Provide proof of New York motorcycle insurance ✔️ ✔️
Provide proof of New York 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 road skills test ✔️* ✔️*
Provide proof of U.S. citizenship ✔️ ✔️
Provide proof of residency in New York ✔️ ✔️

*If you are already in possession of a valid driver’s license and a motorcycle learner’s permit, you will have the option of waiving the road skills portion of the New York motorcycle license test after successful completion of a New York State Motorcycle Safety Program Basic Rider Course.

4.3 New York Motorcycle License Test

Written Portion:

  • Will be completed on touch-screen computers
  • Complete 20 multiple-choice questions
  • Questions will be based on content from New York Motorcycle Operator Manual
  • Will be tested on understanding of road rules and safe riding practices
  • Requires a passing grade of 70% or higher

Riding Skills Portion:

  • Will be conducted in a controlled, off-street area or an actual traffic environment
  • Your motorcycle will be subjected to a pre-ride inspection to ensure 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

5. New York Motorcycle Passenger Laws

In New York, there is no minimum age requirement in regards to motorcycle passengers. All motorcycle passengers regardless of age are required to wear an approved motorcycle helmet at all times. The passenger’s motorcycle helmet must satisfy the same requirements as the operator’s protective headgear.


If you wish to improve safety for the sake of your passenger, you will need to equip and adjust the current state of your motorcycle. The required equipment for carrying an additional person include a designated passenger seat and footrests.


Your passenger should never be seated in front of the driver’s seat. There must be space between the passenger and operator’s seats so that the passenger can fully extend their legs while the operator can drive without distractions. The designated passenger seat can only be positioned at the following places on your motorcycle:

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

The lack of an age restriction means that there are other criteria to check when determining who can safely ride on your motorcycle. A popular rule of thumb is that a passenger must be able to reach and plant their feet against the footrests. Therefore, it is best to avoid transporting young children or elderly individuals. Other characteristics to look for in a motorcycle passenger include the following:

  • Your passenger must be able to reach the footrests
  • Your passenger must wear an approved motorcycle helmet
  • Your passenger cannot be carrying any packages
  • Your passenger must be able to understand and follow your directions

6. New York Lane Splitting Laws

It is illegal for motorcyclists to engage in lane splitting while in New York. Because lane splitting involves getting precariously close to larger vehicles and maneuvering in their blind spots, the chances of getting into a fatal accident become higher. To avoid collisions and trouble with local law enforcement, motorcyclists should avoid engaging in the following behavior:

  • Riding on top of the dividing lines between lanes
  • Riding in between adjacent rows of stopped vehicles
  • Overtaking a larger vehicle ahead in the same lane

However, thanks to the high maneuverability and compact design of motorcycles, riders are entitled to certain rights regarding how they can act when on the road. Motorcyclists are allowed to attempt the following behavior in New York:

  • 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. New York Motorcycle Equipment Requirements

Part of your responsibility as a rider is to bring your motorcycle in for inspection at least once a year at a station recognized by the DMV. This will help determine whether your motorcycle is still in working condition or if there are primary components that need replacing before final approval. Due to a lack of redundant systems, any damage to the machinery could negatively affect the functionality of your vehicle. It is best to apply repairs or acquire replacement parts as soon as possible if any problems are found with the motorcycle.


Listed below are the equipment your motorcycle must be fitted with to be considered street legal in New York. These components are essential to your motorcycle’s maneuverability, visibility, and overall functionality:

  • Horn
  • Wheels
  • Tires
  • Handlebars
  • Front & Rear Brake
  • Controls
  • Headlight
  • Taillight
  • Brake Light
  • Turn Signals
  • Exhaust system
  • Muffler
  • Rearview mirrors

8. Sources

Reading next

Motorcycle Laws & Licensing for Rhode Island, United States
Best Motorcycle Roads & Destinations in New Jersey, United States

Leave a comment

All comments are moderated before being published.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.