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Motorcycle Laws & Licensing for Pennsylvania, United States

Motorcycle Laws & Licensing for Pennsylvania, United States

1. Introduction

If you are a motorcyclist who frequently travels through Pennsylvania or plans to make periodic trips into this state, you will benefit from reviewing the latest version of Pennsylvania’s motorcycle laws. To better ensure personal safety, you need to become familiar with the type of motorcycle helmet you need and how to maintain the condition of your vehicle. It would also be beneficial for the well-being of others if you knew the correct way to carry passengers and whether it is safe to attempt lane splitting. If you are considering becoming a motorcyclist, you would have to know the procedure for how to obtain a Pennsylvania motorcycle license.

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 Pennsylvania.

2. Pennsylvania Motorcycle Insurance

It is required of all motor vehicles owners in Pennsylvania to own vehicle liability insurance coverage that is recognized in this state. It is mandatory to have since hefty fines can be levied against you for property damages and medical expenses if you were involved in an accident. 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 Pennsylvania motorcycle insurance will result in hefty fines and/or suspension of vehicle registration. In the event of your vehicle registration being suspended, you can pay a civil penalty of $500 once in a 12-month period. Along with the restoration fee and an updated form of insurance, paying the civil penalty fee will allow you to maintain the registration on your motorcycle.

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

  • $15,000 for bodily injury to a person per accident
  • $30,000 for bodily injuries to multiple people per accident
  • $5,000 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
  • Medical expenses

3. Pennsylvania Motorcycle Helmet Laws

Pennsylvania Motorcycle Helmet Laws
Pennsylvania Motorcycle Helmet Laws

In Pennsylvania, all riders under the age of 21 must wear an approved motorcycle helmet while operating their vehicles. If you are above the age restriction, you can opt to ride your motorcycle without having protective headgear on. However, this is not recommended since you would be without the protection needed to prevent severe or fatal head injuries.

While the age requirement for wearing motorcycle helmets allows adult riders the option of having to wear a motorcycle helmet only when they choose, this in turn has caused an increase in motorcycle fatalities in recent years:

  • In 2020, there were a total of 3,308 motorcycle accidents, with only 215 of them being fatal
  • In 2020, 93.4% of motorcycle crashes resulted in severe or fatal injuries
  • In 2020, motorcycle accidents made up at least 20.3% of all fatal collisions
  • In 2020, 42.9% of motorcycle fatalities were wearing protective headgear

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 Pennsylvania:

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. Pennsylvania Motorcycle License Laws

4.1 Pennsylvania Motorcycle Learner’s Permit

You can begin applying for a Pennsylvania motorcycle learner’s permit if you are at least 16 years old or above.

You will have to pay a fee of $10 to be issued a Pennsylvania motorcycle learner’s permit that is valid for one year.

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

  • If you are under the age of 18:
    • Complete the Pennsylvania Motorcycle Safety Basic Rider Course
    • Have a Certificate of Completion as proof of finishing 65 hours of practice
  • Present identification documents
  • Provide proof of Pennsylvania 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 operating with a Pennsylvania motorcycle learner’s permit, you will have to comply with the following restrictions as you practice:

  • You are only allowed to operate between sunrise and sunset
  • You cannot carry any passengers aside from a licensed instructor
  • You must wear protective gear

4.2 Pennsylvania Motorcycle License

You are eligible to receive a Pennsylvania motorcycle license if you are at least 16 years old or above.

Taking into account the initial motorcycle learner’s permit plus the license being valid for four years, you will have to pay a fee of $45.50 to be issued a Pennsylvania motorcycle license.

Listed below are the requirements you will need to fulfill to obtain a Pennsylvania motorcycle 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 Pennsylvania driver’s license ✔️ ✔️
Complete a Pennsylvania Motorcycle Safety Program Basic Rider Course ✔️* ✔️*
Held onto a Pennsylvania motorcycle learner’s permit for at least six months ✔️ ✔️
Have a Certificate of Completion as proof of finishing 65 hours of skill-building ✔️ ✔️
Provide proof of Pennsylvania motorcycle insurance ✔️ ✔️
Provide proof of Pennsylvania 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 the vision exam ✔️ ✔️
Pass the knowledge test ✔️ ✔️
Pass the road skills test ✔️* ✔️*
Provide proof of U.S. citizenship ✔️ ✔️
Provide proof of residency in Pennsylvania ✔️ ✔️

*Any applicant that successfully finishes a Pennsylvania Motorcycle Safety Program Basic Rider Course will have the option of having the road skills portion of the Pennsylvania motorcycle license test waived.

4.3 Pennsylvania Motorcycle License Test

Written Portion:

  • Will be completed on touch-screen computers
  • Complete 25 multiple-choice questions
  • Questions will be based on content from Pennsylvania Motorcycle Operator Manual
  • Will be tested on understanding of road rules and safe riding practices
  • Requires a passing grade of 80% 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. Pennsylvania Motorcycle Passenger Laws

In Pennsylvania, there is no minimum age requirement for motorcycle passengers. However, any motorcycle passengers under the age of 21 are only permitted to ride with you if they are wearing an approved motorcycle helmet.

For it to be legal to carry a passenger, your motorcycle must be outfitted with equipment specifically designed to provide secure yet comfortable seating for an additional person. The required equipment will include a designated passenger seat, handholds, and footrests.

The designated passenger seat can only be fixed to the sides or at the rear of your motorcycle. There must be space between the driver and passenger seats to allow the passenger to fully extend his/her legs on both sides. This will also prevent the passenger from interfering with the operator while handling the motorcycle. 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

Because there is no age restriction, you will have to consider other criteria when deciding who can safely ride with you. 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. Pennsylvania Lane Splitting Laws

It is illegal for motorcyclists to engage in lane splitting throughout Pennsylvania. 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

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 Pennsylvania:

  • 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. Pennsylvania Motorcycle Equipment Requirements

Pennsylvania Motorcycle Equipment Requirements - Motorcycle Laws & Licensing

Despite the tough yet sleek appearance of most motorcycles, the machinery that allows these vehicles to run tends to be more delicate than people think. The stress from overuse, debris getting caught, and damage from collisions could compromise the functionality of the primary components. Unless they are all in working condition, you will not be able to accelerate, brake, turn, or react properly when operating your motorcycle.

Listed below are the equipment your motorcycle must be fitted with to be considered street legal in Delaware. 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

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