What do you need to know about Pennsylvania motorcycle law?

Pennsylvania law sets forth rules which limit the seating on and methods of riding a motorcycle. The motorcycle must have permanently-attached seats. If there is a passenger, the rider can only ride on the motorcycle if it has permanent regular seating for two people.

A rider must face forward with his or her legs on each side of the motorcycle unless riding in a sidecar. Passengers are not permitted to sit in front of the operator while the motorcycle is in motion.

In general, it is against the law to operate a motorcycle in any way that presents a risk to the safety of the operator or passenger. For example, the operator may not ride carrying an item that prevents him or her from using both hands to operate the motorcycle.

There are also laws governing the operation of motorcycles on roads divided into two or more lanes. On those roads the following rules apply:

  1. Right to use of lane – Other motor vehicles may not infringe on a motorcyclist’s right to full use of the lane.
  2. Overtaking and passing – A motorcyclist must not overtake and pass using the same lane that is occupied by the vehicle they are passing.
  3. Operation between lanes or vehicles – Lane splitting is illegal in Pennsylvania. It means driving between two cars on the road, essentially following the lines meant to divide the lanes.
  4. Limitations on operating abreast – Motorcyclists must not ride more than two abreast in a single lane.
  5. Police officers – Certain rules do not apply to police officers in the performance of their official duties.

Riding under the influence is illegal. It is against the law to operate a motorcycle under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The rules regarding riding under the influence are the same for motorcyclists as for regular motorists. Driving a vehicle while impaired is a dangerous crime that carries harsh penalties.

Pennsylvania’s helmet law. Motorcyclists involved in crashes risk suffering serious head injuries, making helmet use critically important. Helmets are approximately 67 percent effective in preventing traumatic brain injuries and about 37 percent effective in preventing motorcycle fatalities.

The helmet law in some states says that anyone on a motorcycle must wear a helmet. Pennsylvania has a motorcycle helmet law, but it is less inclusive. According to Pennsylvania’s motorcycle helmet law, anyone operating or riding a motorcycle must wear a helmet “unless they are over 21 years of age and have either two years of riding experience or have completed a motorcycle safety course approved by PennDOT or the Motorcycle Safety Foundation.”

The operator or passenger of a three-wheeled motorcycle equipped with an enclosed cab is not required to wear a helmet. Motorcycle helmets must comply with the standards provided by the United States Department of Transportation. This is indicated by the “DOT” sticker on the helmet. It must also be labeled with the manufacturer’s name, model number, size, and month/year of the helmet’s manufacturing date.

In addition, all motorcycle riders and operators must wear safety glasses, goggles, or similar protective eyewear while riding on a motorcycle.