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Motorcycle Laws & Licensing for Rhode Island, United States

Motorcycle Laws & Licensing for Rhode Island, United States

1. Introduction

Throughout the United States, there are general rules of the road that all motorcyclists must abide by in the interest of promoting safety and avoiding trouble with the law. Every rider has the common sense to cruise below or at the posted speed limit, be aware of one’s surroundings, and stop when the traffic lights turn red. But in Rhode Island, there may be additional or specific guidelines regarding what motorcyclists can or cannot do. Both novice and experienced riders would benefit from reviewing the latest version of Rhode Island’s motorcycle laws.

This infographic will provide an overview of the essential motorcycle laws and a step-by-step explanation of the licensing process in the state of Rhode Island.

2. Rhode Island Motorcycle Insurance

Before you are allowed to take your motorcycle out on the streets, you must first obtain Rhode Island motorcycle insurance. Whenever you are riding your motorcycle, you must carry proof of ownership on your person or stored on your motorcycle. You must be able to produce the relevant documents when requested by local law enforcement or affected parties following an accident. Most automobile liability policies tend to consist of liability for bodily injury, liability for property damage, and uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage.

Your Rhode Island 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
  • $25,000 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
  • Bodily injury coverage
  • Medical payment coverage

3. Rhode Island Motorcycle Helmet Laws

Rhode Island Motorcycle Helmet Laws
Rhode Island Motorcycle Helmet Laws

In Rhode Island, all riders under the age of 21 must wear an approved motorcycle helmet while operating motorcycles. If you are above the age restriction, you can choose to go without having protective headgear on. However, this is not recommended since you would be depriving yourself of 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 2019, preliminary data indicated that 30% of motorcycle fatalities were not wearing motorcycle helmets
  • On average, motorcyclists tend to represent 14% of all traffic-related fatalities
  • Wearing motorcycle helmets reduce the risk of death by 37%
  • Wearing motorcycle helmets reduce the risk of head injuries by 69%

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 Rhode Island:

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. Rhode Island Motorcycle License Laws

4.1 Rhode Island Motorcycle Permit

You can begin applying for a Rhode Island motorcycle permit if you are at least 16 years old or above.

You must pay a fee of $27.50 to be issued a Rhode Island motorcycle permit that is valid for 18 months.

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

  • If you are under 18 years old:
    • Have signature and consent from parent or legal guardian
    • Complete 33 hours of driver education
  • Provide proof of Rhode Island residency
  • Provide proof of U.S. citizenship
  • Present identification documents
  • Take a photo
  • Pass the knowledge exam
  • Pass the vision exam
  • Pay the required fees

When you are operating with a Rhode Island motorcycle permit, you will have to comply with the following restrictions as you practice:

  • You cannot transport passengers
  • You cannot operate on the freeways
  • You must be supervised by a 21-year-old with a valid motorcycle license
  • You must wear protective gear

4.2 Rhode Island Motorcycle License

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

You must pay a fee of $27.50 to be issued a Rhode Island motorcycle license that is valid for five years.

Listed below are the requirements you will need to fulfill to obtain a Rhode Island 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 Rhode Island driver’s license ✔️ ✔️
Complete a motorcycle safety course provided by the Community College of Rhode Island ✔️* ✔️*
Complete a 33-hour long Rhode Island Driver Education course ✔️
Held onto a Rhode Island motorcycle permit for at least 30 days ✔️ ✔️
Provide proof of Rhode Island motorcycle insurance ✔️ ✔️
Provide proof of Rhode Island 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 Rhode Island ✔️ ✔️

*Submitting a Certificate of Completion for a motorcycle safety course provided by the Community College of Rhode Island will give you the option of waiving the roads skills portion of the Rhode Island Motorcycle License Test.

4.3 Rhode Island Motorcycle License Test

Written Portion:

  • Will be completed on touch-screen computers
  • Complete 25 multiple-choice questions
  • Questions will be based on content from RI DMV Driver’s Manual
  • Will be tested on understanding of road rules and safe riding practices
  • Requires a passing grade of 80% or higher

Any applicants who fail the written portion must wait at least eight days before they are allowed to retry.

Riding Skills Portion:

  • Will be conducted in a controlled, off-street area
  • 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

Upon failing the road skills portion the first time, applicants must wait at least 30 days before they are allowed to retry. Upon a second failure, applicants must wait at least 90 days. After a third failure, applicants must wait at least 180 days.

5. Rhode Island Passenger Laws

In Rhode Island, 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. Rhode Island Lane Splitting Laws

It is illegal for motorcyclists to practice any form of lane splitting in Rhode Island. Because lane splitting involves getting precariously close to larger vehicles and maneuvering in their blind spots, the chances of getting into a fatal accident increase. 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 Rhode Island:

  • 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. Motorcycle Equipment Requirements

In Rhode Island, you must bring your motorcycle in for a vehicle and safety inspection before June 30th every year. These are necessary to ensure your motorcycle’s primary components have not suffered significant damage and that they are still functioning properly. Your motorcycle runs a risk of suffering mechanical failure if even a single component becomes faulty. Do not delay to apply repairs with your tools or take your vehicle to a professional mechanic.

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