Key Differences in Motorcycle Laws by State

by RyanD on August 11, 2013

Most bikers are fond of taking road trips. Many claim the only way to see the country is to explore its highways and byways on a motorcycle. But bikers need to remember that the laws pertaining to motorcycle operation vary from state to state.

Helmet Laws

New Hampshire, Illinois, and Iowa have no motorcycle helmet law. So if you start your trip in one of those states you had better plan on putting on a helmet as soon as you cross the state border or risk getting a ticket. You can ditch the helmet in Idaho and 27 other states, too, if you are over a certain age. But those restrictions vary as well: some states require a helmet if you are under age 17, others require one only if you are under age 20. Obviously, it is important to check out the laws of any state you plan to travel in. Other restrictions vary considerably for issues like off road use, driver age, and low-power engines.

Check Out the Fine Print

Most states do have key differences in their motorcycle laws for both on-road and off-road traveling. For example, in the state of Washington on-road motorcyclists must use a headlight day and night, wear eye protection unless the bike is equipped with a windscreen, have a muffler, and have a passenger seat if carrying a passenger. Washington’s off-road laws are somewhat more lenient, but it is always wise to check every state’s requirements regarding both on-road and off-road restrictions before setting off on a trip.
The Most and Least Lenient States

Idaho has some of the most lenient motorcycle laws; you are not required to keep your headlights on during daylight hours, use eye protection, or worry about your handlebar height, and, if you are over 18, you don’t need a helmet. Conversely, if you operate a motorcycle in New York State, you’d better have a helmet and eye protection. New York’s state laws also have certain specifications for the muffler, engine sound, and handlebar height.

Obscure and Odd Laws

Be forewarned: laws are not carved into stone. State legislatures introduce new bills and pass new laws every year, most often in response to citizen complaints or concerns. But like most laws, there are some oddball motorcycle laws, and some could cost you a hefty fine if violated. Although Illinois does not have a mandatory helmet law, it does have a law on the books against popping a wheelie while speeding—doing that will cost you $1,000. Perhaps to offset that severe restriction, the state allows motorcyclists to run a red light if the light has not turned green within a reasonable amount of time and if there is no oncoming traffic. The logic used is that a motorcycle may not weigh enough to trip the traffic light’s magnetic sensor. Of course, what you constitute as a reasonable length of time and what the police believe is a reasonable length of time is still up for debate. To further complicate things, the law does not apply if you are driving in a city with a population of over two million people.

Whether or not you agree with any law or restriction applicable to motorcycle operation, the fact remains that, as with automobile laws, you are subject to fines, and possibly arrest, if you do not comply. To be safe, check out any new legislation every year that might affect your travels.



This article was written by Robert Tritter, an aspiring lawyer who looks forward to making a positive impact on the world. He writes this on behalf of Bennche, your number one choice when looking for the top 250cc motorcycle! Check out their website today and see how they can get you what you need!




Latest posts by RyanD (see all)

Previous post:

Next post: