Press Release - 05-05-2017

DMV News


Friday, May 5, 2017

Joe Morrissey             [email protected]       
Rich Meddaugh          [email protected]


New York State Marks the 50th Anniversary of its Motorcycle Helmet Law


The New York State Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and the Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee (GTSC) marked the 50th anniversary of New York becoming the first state in the nation to require all New Yorkers who ride motorcycles to wear a helmet.  The state Legislature adopted the law in 1966, and it took effect on January 1, 1967. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, New York’s law was the first in the nation. Multiple states soon followed New York’s lead. The University of Michigan Highway Safety Research Institute said New York’s legislation “served as the model for most other states' laws.”


“For the past 50 years, New York’s motorcycle helmet law has made enjoying a ride on our state’s many scenic roadways a safer experience for all motorcyclists,” said Terri Egan, GTSC Acting Chair and DMV Executive Deputy Commissioner. “We want New Yorkers to be able to enjoy the freedom of the open road on their motorcycles.  We also want them to come home safely to their families at the end of their trips. New York’s helmet law and our safety training programs help to achieve both. In an era when distracted driving is a major concern, we must remain vigilant in promoting rider safety and motorist awareness.”


The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimated in a report last July that 76 lives were saved in 2014 as a result of New York State’s motorcycle helmet law and $1 billion was saved from what would have been lost productivity, medical expenses, legal, court and EMS costs, lost quality-of-life and other costs. The report can be viewed here:


May is Motorcycle Safety and Awareness Month in New York State and across the nation, a time when the Empire State highlights its efforts to keep riders safe and reminds drivers to watch out for motorcyclists. There are almost 750,000 licensed motorcycle riders in New York State.


This year also marks the 20th anniversary of New York’s implementation of a rider-funded motorcycle safety training and awareness program known as the New York State Motorcycle Safety Program (NYSMSP). The program uses a nationally recognized motorcycle training curriculum, developed by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation. More than 230,000 motorcyclists have participated in the program since its inception.


The courses teach effective turning, braking maneuvers, avoiding obstacles, strategies in traffic, picking protective apparel and vehicle maintenance.  More than 70 percent of the state’s new motorcycle licenses are now issued to riders who have participated in the program.  To find information on where to take a motorcycle safety course near you, go to the New York State Motorcycle Safety Program website.


New York’s emphasis on motorcycle safety is paying dividends. Last year, preliminary estimates from the Institute for Traffic Safety Management and Research showed the lowest number of fatalities, 130, since 2009, even while the number of licensed motorcyclists has grown by more than 90,000 since 2012.


Some riders oppose wearing approved helmets because they think such helmets will limit their view to the sides. Others want to wear them only on long trips or when riding at high speeds. Here are some facts to consider:


  • An approved helmet lets you see as far to the sides as necessary.  A study of more than 900 motorcycle crashes, where 40 percent of the riders wore helmets, did not find even one case in which a helmet kept a rider from spotting danger.
  • Most crashes happen on short trips (less than five miles long), just a few minutes after starting out.
  • Most riders are riding slower than 30 miles per hour when a crash occurs. At these speeds, helmets can cut both the number and the severity of head injuries by half.


No matter what the speed, helmeted riders are three times more likely to survive head injuries than those not wearing approved helmets at the time of the crash. Violations of the helmet law can lead to a fine of up to $100.


For more information on motorcycle safety, visit DMV’s website’s at the Motorcycle Manual Preparing to Ride page and the Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee website at the Motorcycle, Moped and ATV page.