Written by attorney Matthew Jay Weiss

New York Motorcycle Laws & Traffic Tickets

Under the Vehicle And Traffic Law (VTL), motorcyclists must abide by the same driving, registration and inspection laws that apply to operators of cars and trucks. There are other laws, however, that apply only to motorcycle operators.

Below is a list of the motorcycle laws of which you should be aware. All have a costs but some also carry DMV points and even (in rare instances) imprisonment.

Let’s start with basic riding rules. VTL Section 1251 requires all persons to operate their motorcycles in the following manner:

  • Ride only in the sitting position, facing forward and straddling the seat with each leg (i.e., no side saddle, standing or other motocross-like tricks).
  • Carry only one person unless the motorcycle is designed for two or more persons. However, passengers are never allowed where they would interfere with safe operation.
  • Refrain from carrying any packages or other items that prevent the rider from keeping both hands on the handlebars.

Next we discuss safe operation (VTL Section 1252). All motorcycles are entitled to the full use of a lane of traffic. However, the law DOES allow motorcyclists to drive two abreast in a single lane. Other drivers shall not deprive a motorcyclist of the full use of a lane.

With this said, the following motorcycle operation rules do apply:

  • A motorcyclist shall not overtake or pass in the same lane occupied by a car or truck - VTL 1252(b)
  • A motorcyclist shall not ride between lanes of traffic or between rows of cars – VTL 1252(c)
  • A motorcyclist shall not avoid an intersection or traffic control device (ex., cut through a parking lot) – VTL 1225
  • Operate a motorcycle on a sidewalk except to legally access a driveway, parking lot, etc.– VTL 1225-a

All four of the above violations carry two DMV points.

Next we look at equipment. Like a car, motorcyclists must have all basic equipment such as adequate brakes, horn and lights. Under VTL 381, motorcyclists must also have the items listed below. There are approved specifications for all of them.

  • An illuminated white or yellow lamp in the front and a red one in the rear whenever operated (i.e., day or night).
  • A securely-attached red reflector to the rear
  • A muffler that prevents excessive noise (the use of “cut-outs" is prohibited).
  • Handle bars or grips that are no higher than the height of the operator’s shoulders
  • Approved wind screens are optional
  • Rear view mirrors

Finally, and in my opinion most importantly, a motorcycle operator must wear an approved helmet at all times. VTL 381(6). The helmet must contain a face shield (or the rider must use goggles).

I have sadly been involved in too many personal injury cases where motorcyclists were severely injured and killed for violating this one.

PLEASE always where your helmet and ride safely!

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