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Motorcycle Safety

With nearly 850,000 licensed motorcyclists in Pennsylvania, PennDOT continues to focus on motorcycle safety.

Live Free Ride Alive

PennDOT's comprehensive motorcycle safety campaign, Live Free Ride Alive, is designed to reduce the number of motorcycle crashes and fatalities on Pennsylvania's roadways. Follow Live Free Ride Alive on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to learn more about getting properly licensed to ride a motorcycle, reducing aggressive driving behaviors by obeying the speed limit, avoiding drinking and riding, and encouraging the use of wearing protective riding gear.

Live Free Ride Alive also visits major motorcycle rallies and events throughout Pennsylvania, such as Thunder in the Valley in Johnstown and Roar on the Shore in Erie. Keep an eye on the Live Free Ride Alive social media pages to find out where they’ll be next!


Safety Tips for Motorcyclists

Riders can improve their safety on the road by following some simple safety tips:

  • Wear a U.S. DOT-approved helmet, face or eye protection and protective clothing.
  • Know your motorcycle and conduct a pre-ride check.
  • Be seen. Wear reflective clothing and put reflective tape on your protective riding gear and motorcycle.
  • Use common sense by riding sober, obeying all speed limits and allowing enough time to react to dangerous situations.
  • Practice safe-riding techniques and know how to handle your motorcycle in adverse road and weather conditions. Road conditions such as potholes, gravel, wet or slippery surfaces that usually pose minor annoyances to motorists are in fact major hazards for motorcyclists.
  • Consider attending free training via PennDOT's Motorcycle Safety Program.
  • During spring riding, be cautious of gravel buildup from winter road maintenance on the edges of roadways and near intersections. Riders can report hazardous conditions due to gravel along the road to 1-800-FIX-ROAD.


Safety Tips for Motorists Sharing the Road with Motorcycles

  • Look out for motorcyclists — be aware that motorcycles are small and may be difficult to see. Check mirrors and blind spots before changing lanes and at intersections. Large vehicles can also block a motorcycle from a motorist's view and a motorcycle can suddenly appear out of nowhere.
  • Allow more following distance — leave at least four seconds when following a motorcycle.
  • Always signal your intentions before changing lanes or merging with traffic.
  • Respect a motorcycle as a full-size vehicle with the same rights and privileges as any vehicle on the roadway. Allow a motorcyclist a full lane width as the motorcyclist needs the room to maneuver safely in all types of road conditions.


Pennsylvania Helmet Law

The law mandates the use of protective headgear unless the motorcyclist is at least 21 years of age and has been licensed to operate a motorcycle for not less than two full calendar years or has successfully completed a motorcycle safety course approved by PennDOT or the Motorcycle Safety Foundation. In addition, PA law mandates the use of eye-protective devices for all motorcyclists and their passengers unless operating a motorized pedalcycle or a three-wheeled motorcycle equipped with an enclosed cab.

If an individual has a motorcycle learner's permit, a helmet must be worn regardless of age.

The passenger of a person exempt from wearing a helmet can also go without a helmet if he or she is 21 years of age or older.


Pennsylvania Motorcycle Safety Program

The Pennsylvania Motorcycle Safety Program (PAMSP) was established to teach riders of all skill levels the basic fundamentals needed to reduce risk while operating a motorcycle. The PAMSP was created from legislation in 1984 and began operation one year later.

PAMSP offers FREE, hands-on training to Pennsylvania residents with a valid PA motorcycle license or permit. The goal of the PAMSP is to give all riders the skills needed to combat everyday hazards encountered on the road. 

For more information about classes offered through PAMSP, check out our program fact sheet (PDF).


Why You Should Get Licensed:

  • Operating a motorcycle safely on roadways requires a different knowledge and skills set than what's needed for operation of a passenger vehicle.
  • A motorcycle is different by design and maneuvers differently than a passenger vehicle. Hazardous road and weather conditions, such as potholes, gravel, wet or slippery surfaces that usually pose minor annoyances to drivers of other vehicles are in fact major hazards for motorcyclists.
  • Pennsylvania crash statistics show that inexperienced riders suffer more severe injuries than experienced riders.
  • If you are caught riding a motorcycle without a motorcycle license, you run the risk of having to tow your motorcycle or leave it by the side of the road until you can get it towed.
  • Properly licensed riders are safer riders because the goal of licensing is to ensure motorcyclists have the basic knowledge and skills needed to operate a motorcycle safely.