Summer is upon us, and it’s time to hit the open road. If you’re a motorcyclist, you may ride for stress relief or to feel the wind rush by you. Or perhaps you ride with a club, enjoying time with other enthusiasts. Whatever the reason, make sure you’re protected when you hit the road.
If you’re in an accident when riding a motorcycle, you lack the protection of a car. You’re not as visible as a larger vehicle, and your bike is often more sensitive to road or weather conditions when traveling at higher speeds. In 2016, the U.S. government estimated that the number of deaths from motorcycle accidents outnumbered car accidents 28:1 for every mile traveled. Because of the potential severity of motorcycle accidents, many victims suffer severe or permanent injuries even if death does not occur.
Understanding motorcycle safety, along with your legal rights, can make your ride more enjoyable. Here’s what you need to know about motorcycle safety laws in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
What to Know About Motorcycle Safety Laws
In most states, motorcycle safety laws address issues such as helmets, mirrors, lane splitting, eye protection, and passenger age-restriction requirements, among others. Additionally, most state laws address both on-road and off-road riding, which may differ.
If you live and ride in either New Jersey or Pennsylvania, you should understand the legal requirements and your rights specific to those states.
In New Jersey, if you’re riding either on-road or off-road, you’re required to wear a helmet and carry motorcycle insurance. However, for either on-road or off-road, you’re not required to wear eye protection or obey a maximum sound level.
Furthermore, as a New Jersey resident, you must have a valid New Jersey motorcycle license. If you don’t have one, then you must first apply for your motorcycle permit. If you’re under the age of 18, you’re required to pass the safety rider course. As an out-of-state resident, your license issued in your state of residence will be honored in New Jersey.
Let’s look at some of New Jersey’s motorcycle laws that differ depending on where you ride.
For on-road riding, you’re allowed to use a modulating headlight that’s compliant with the law. Your handlebar should have handgrips falling below your shoulder height. No age limits exist for passengers. However, you should have a left- or right-side mirror, and both a seat and a footrest if carrying a passenger.
Additionally, for on-road riding, you’re not required to get a safety inspection or have turn signals. Be sure, though, that you don’t lane-split while riding.
For off-road riding, you’re required to use a headlight and a taillight after sunset. You should possess a registration for your bike as well as a muffler.
For off-road riding, New Jersey does impose age restrictions. For example, drivers under the age of 16 can only operate 90cc engines or less. Children under 14 cannot ride on public lands. Finally, a rider education certificate is required for all drivers under the age of 18.
In Pennsylvania, the basic safety laws are similar to those in New Jersey with some key differences. Like New Jersey, as a resident of Pennsylvania, you must obtain a motorcycle license from the department of motor vehicles. As an out-of-state resident, your license issued in your state of residence will be honored in Pennsylvania.
Motorcycle learner’s permits are also granted. With these, the rider must honor the permit’s restrictions, such as riding only between sunrise and sunset. Riders under the age of 18 must have a permit for a minimum of six months along with 65 hours of supervised riding before applying for their license. Additionally, before taking the license test, young riders must complete a motorcycle safety class.
Let’s look at some of Pennsylvania’s motorcycle laws that differ depending on where you ride.
For on-road riding, you’re required to use a daytime headlight for any motorcycles built after 1986. No handlebar restrictions exist, but mirrors and mufflers are required. No age limits exist for passengers. However, you should have a left or right-side mirror, and both a seat and a footrest if carrying a passenger.
Additionally, for on-road riding, the law imposes maximum sound levels and periodic safety inspections. Turn signals aren’t required, but compulsory liability insurance is. Like New Jersey, be sure that you don’t lane-split while riding.
For off-road riding, you’re required to use a headlight and a taillight after sunset. As in New Jersey, you should possess a registration for your bike as well as a muffler. Additionally, you’re required to wear a helmet but not required to wear eye protection.
For off-road riding, although an operator license is not required, drivers must follow the age limits on the manufacturer’s label. Rider education certification is required for all drivers under the age of 16.
What to Do If You’re Involved in an Accident
All motorcycle riders hope they can enjoy the open road without worrying about the what-ifs. However, if you’re involved in an accident, you should adhere to the following steps to protect your legal rights:
- Check yourself and any others involved in the accident for injury. If anyone is hurt, call 9-1-1 immediately. This will notify both an ambulance and the police.
- When a police officer arrives, they will let you know if you can move your bike off the road. Make sure you write down the police officer’s name and badge number.
- Take any pictures of the damage to your bike and any other vehicles involved in the accident. Additionally, take notes on the location of the crash. Be sure to include the current weather and road conditions as well as the designated speed limit.
- Gather any information from other people involved in the accident, including names, addresses, phone numbers, license plate numbers, and insurance information. Make sure you jot down a description of the other vehicles. If a police report is issued, obtain a copy of it. This report is critical to any potential recovery to which you may be entitled.
- See if anyone witnessed the accident. Gather any potential witness information, including names, addresses, phone numbers, and details as to what they saw or heard.
- Contact your insurance company to let them know you were in an accident. Give them as much information as you have so they can give you further instructions.
- Visit a doctor if you were hurt. You’ll need to send this information to your insurance company eventually.
- Contact an attorney skilled in motorcycle law. If your bike is severely damaged or you were injured, contact a lawyer who can not only advise you of your rights but can also obtain any compensation or damages to which you may be entitled.
Tips on How to Avoid an Accident
Being involved in a motorcycle accident can be stressful. You could be without transportation, seriously injured, or negatively impacted financially. After an accident, you may have to miss work, attend doctors’ appointment or physical therapy, or be involved in a protracted insurance review.
Remember what Benjamin Franklin said: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” It’s prudent to avoid an accident in the first place. Let’s look at some preventable measures to take to prevent a motorcycle accident.
- Make sure to inspect your bike, helmet, and other equipment before you ride. Check the working order of your equipment, making sure your bike is adequately maintained and safe to ride. Your motorcycle should comply with the applicable safety laws of either New Jersey or Pennsylvania.
- Wear the appropriate safety gear, including your helmet, proper clothes and shoes, and eye protection. If you spin out or are otherwise involved in an accident, this safety gear can minimize your injuries.
- Follow all local traffic laws. Don’t push the boundaries on speed or take turns like you’re a professional driver. Don’t drive too closely behind other vehicles, and don’t ride between other cars or on the shoulder.
Keeping your bike maintained, following your state’s safety laws, and riding smart can all prevent an unfortunate accident.
If you are in an accident, it can often be challenging to recover legally. Many insurance companies may try to shift risk to the rider, stating that he or she understood the danger when operating a motorcycle. Because of this, motorcycle accidents are complex and can become lengthy and costly. If you’ve been in an accident, contact an attorney to help educate you about your rights while navigating through your case.
Contact The Marrone Law Firm, LLC For Legal Assistance Today
The litigators at The Marrone Law Firm are dedicated to motorcycle riders, helping them obtain the recovery they deserve following an accident. Contact them at 856-489-7757 in New Jersey or 215-709-7360 in Pennsylvania.
Media Contact for Marrone Law Firm, LLC:
Brigette Lutz, [email protected]