Motorcycle Safety

Traffic Safety Board
William Johnson, Administrator



ARTICLE 34-A — OPERATION OF MOTORCYCLES section 1250, 1251, 1252, 1253 provide traffic laws on operating a motorcycle in NYS.

There are two organizations setting safety standards for motorcycle helmets in the United States, the Federal Government's Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Snell Memorial Foundation. DOT sets minimum standards that all helmets sold for motorcycling on public streets must meet. The standard is Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 218 (FMVSS 218) and is known commonly as the DOT helmet standard.

In NYS all motorcycle operators and passengers must wear approved motorcycle helmets (Article 9, section 381-6) as defined by USDOT federal motor vehicle safety standards.  This standard establishes minimum performance requirements for helmets designed for use by motorcyclists and other motor vehicle users. The purpose of this standard is to reduce deaths and injuries to motorcyclists and other motor vehicle users resulting from head impacts.  To improve the motorcyclist's visibility, it is recommend that helmets have at least four square inches of reflective material on both sides.

Some motorcycle riders are violating State laws by wearing unsafe helmets that do not meet the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 218.  Most of these helmets are sold as novelty items and circumvent the requirements.  Some motorcyclists purchase these helmets mistakenly believing that they offer protection.  How can you identify unsafe novelty helmets  as well as distinguish unsafe helmets from those that meet the Federal safety standard?

All motorcycle operators must wear approved eye protection even if the motorcycle is equipped with a windshield.  Any windshield must also be of an approved type.  Prescription or made-to-order safety glasses may be used if the user can present written certification that they meet DMV standards.  The eye protection must be manufactured in conformity with the regulations established by the American National Standard Institute (ANSI – Z87.1).   However, DMV recommends approved goggles or a face-shield for full protection.



NYS Department of Motor Vehicles Motorcycle Manual—Preparing to Ride provides guidelines to help you enjoy a safer ride.

More than 90% of riders involved in accidents had no formal training.  Have you had formal training? This is one of eleven tips in Tips for Safer Motorcycling


The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) has established a rider-funded motorcycle safety program (MSF) as required by legislation signed in 1997. The primary purpose of the motorcycle safety program is to have rider education accessible and affordable throughout New York State. A program goal is to reduce the number of motorcyclist injuries and fatalities with an emphasis on rider education and motorist awareness of motorcycles. The program uses a nationally recognized motorcycle training curriculum developed by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation .  The Motorcycle Safety Foundation is the internationally recognized developer of the comprehensive, research based, Rider Education and Training System (RETS). RETS curricula promotes lifelong learning for motorcyclists and continuous professional development for certified RiderCoaches (SM) and other trainers.  MSF also actively participates in government relations, safety research, public awareness campaigns and the provision of technical assistance to state training and licensing programs.   The SmartRider Motorcycle Safety Program, Inc. has been providing instruction and hands on training in the Hudson Valley since 2001.

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Eoin Wrafter,Commissioner Eoin Wrafter
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