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Motorcycle Safety

With motorcycle use on the rise in Pennsylvania, PennDOT continues to focus on improving motorcycle safety. The number of registered motorcycles climbed to approximately 405,209 in 2013. Likewise, the number of licensed motorcyclists climbed to more than 860,377 in 2013.


Live Free Ride Alive

PennDOT's comprehensive motorcycle safety campaign, Live Free Ride Alive, is an effort to reduce the number of motorcycle crashes and fatalities on Pennsylvania's roadways. The campaign's website, LiveFreeRideAlive, is an interactive website designed specifically for motorcyclists. The site contains important safety messages relating to 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 all protective riding gear. There also are videos outlining the motorcycle safety training available free of charge to Pennsylvania motorcycle license and permit holders through the Pennsylvania Motorcycle Safety Program (PAMSP).

The website offers visitors the opportunity to take the Be One Less Pledge "to honor the fallen and keep those on two wheels on two wheels by pledging to be one less statistic" and the ability to post motorcycle messages and videos, sharing what they love or even fear about riding, or sharing a lesson or two they've learned on the road or about a time they crashed and lived to tell about it. If you ride, you've got a story. We want to hear it.


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.


Motorcycle Safety Program

The safety program includes four courses, which offer riders of all skill levels the opportunity to learn and apply basic motorcycle fundamentals to reduce the risk of otherwise avoidable crashes.

The 15-hour Basic Rider Course (BRC) consists of five hours of in-class instruction and 10 hours of practical riding experience. This comprehensive safety and skills overview provides valuable training for new riders and gives experienced riders the opportunity to polish their skills and correct any unsafe riding habits they may have developed. Students taking the BRC are provided a motorcycle and helmet; however, students are responsible for providing all other protective gear.

All permit holders under the age of 18 must take and successfully complete the BRC offered through the Pennsylvania Motorcycle Safety Program in order to receive their motorcycle license. The BRC consists of 15 hours of training and counts toward the 65-hour skills-building requirement. Additionally, while the skills test is required to successfully pass the motorcycle safety course, if the young driver has not reached the eligibility date (meaning the six-month waiting period) to take the motorcycle licensing test, they will not be tested at the end of the course, but must return to the training program for the skills test when they reach the eligibility date.

If a rider has completed the BRC, the six-hour Basic Rider Course 2 (BRC2), formerly known as the Experienced Rider Course, allows skilled riders to refresh their safety knowledge and hone their on-road skills. Riders taking the BRC2 are permitted to carry a passenger while practicing balance and steering techniques in a controlled environment. Students taking the BRC2 must provide their own motorcycle and protective gear.

The Advanced Rider Course (ARC), is a one-day training session modeled after a military training course for licensed motorcyclists who wish to enhance their safety skills through attitude and enhanced awareness. The course provides a minimum of 3.5 hours of classroom instruction and 4.5 hours of practical riding experience and will be offered at 17 locations statewide. Participants in the advanced course are required to use their own motorcycle.

The Three-Wheel Basic Rider (3WBRC) is geared toward three-wheel motorcycle riders and teaches the fundamental riding skills and safety strategies taught in BRC. The course is 12 hours — four hours in the classroom and eight hours riding. The 3WBRC is offered at eight PAMSP course locations statewide. Upon successful completion of this course, which includes passing a skills test, students with a motorcycle learner's permit will be issued a motorcycle license with a "9" restriction (meaning they are prohibited from operating a two-wheeled motorcycle) if they do not already possess one. If they have already successfully taken the motorcycle skills test on a two-wheeled motorcycle, a "9" restriction will not be added.

For more information on these courses or to check for scheduled courses in your area, visit


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.