Driving license limitations in the USA

Discussion in 'Americas' started by nirgilat, Feb 17, 2013.

  1. nirgilat

    nirgilat n00b

    Joined:
    Sep 2, 2008
    Oddometer:
    8
    Hi all
    I am planning a month trip in the US, I have an up to 33 horse power motorcycle driving license ( Yap that's the way it goes here in Israel) , I was wondering if I can ride any bike in the US or will I be limited on engine size and HP.
    Is there a problem to rent a bike or buy one in my case .
    Cheers
    Nir
    #1
  2. dougfromindy

    dougfromindy I smell premix

    Joined:
    Aug 15, 2008
    Oddometer:
    2,358
    Location:
    Indpls, IN Lexington, MI
    There is NO size restrictions here in USA.
    There is NO tiered system like in the UK. (Which actually I think is a good idea).
    A Motorcycle endorsement lets you ride any CC or size of bike.
    You do have to have a motorcycle endorsement to ride.
    You must have a 125cc or larger to ride on highways and interstates.
    #2
  3. markjenn

    markjenn Long timer

    Joined:
    Nov 9, 2003
    Oddometer:
    10,501
    Location:
    Swellvue, WA
    This is not a simple question because driver's licenses are issued by states, not by the federal goverment. As such, there are basically 50 sets of rules about whether your foreign license is recognized by any particular state you happen to be driving in and what restrictions or limitations might apply.

    I've heard the general rule of thumb is that if you have a valid foreign driver's license that it will be generally accepted in the US. And I don't think any states in the US issue motorcycle licenses tiered to displacement, although some do not require a separate motorcycle endorsement if you riding a bike below a displacement threshold. Whether your use of your foreign license makes you subject to the restrictions of this foreign license? I suspect you'd get 50 different answers to this question if you asked each state about this.

    Some say that getting an international driver's license is a good idea, especially if you license is not in English.

    Most just "wing it" and hope for the best. I think in your case, the key thing to check is what license requirements are for bike rental agency you're planning on using. I'd also ask a lot of questions about insurance.

    If you're buying, that's a whole nother can of worms as vehicle registration and titling are, once again, handled by individual states. There are several threads in this forum discussing this.

    - Mark
    #3
  4. viverrid

    viverrid not dead yet

    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2004
    Oddometer:
    30,482
    Location:
    Western Mass
    Come to the U.S. of A. and ride a more powerful bike than you'd be allowed to at home, yaaaay!

    (You already have lots of guns in Israel so no novelty in that regard.)
    #4
  5. Reverse

    Reverse Armchair Tough

    Joined:
    May 8, 2008
    Oddometer:
    1,268
    Location:
    Atlanta, GA
    Even though it is not required, the first thing you should do is get an international (version of your) driver's license. That way, should you for any reason need to give up your license, you still have your original license to use when you get back home. Also, the look on a cop's face when you hand him one of those is priceless :-)
    #5
  6. LuciferMutt

    LuciferMutt Rides slow bike slow

    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2008
    Oddometer:
    11,582
    Location:
    New(er) Mexico
    As long as you are licensed or endorsed to ride a motorcycle, you will be fine in all 50 states. Don't over complicate this -- the US gives driver's licenses to anything with a pulse. 50 sets of rules? Not really a concern for you, since most of those rules have to do with how the DMV issues licenses to people who already live here, not foreigners.
    #6
  7. sloMark

    sloMark Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jul 22, 2007
    Oddometer:
    859
    Location:
    Pittsburgh
    Klr.
    #7
  8. Twilight Error

    Twilight Error Going nowhere slowly

    Joined:
    May 18, 2002
    Oddometer:
    22,812
    Location:
    The Submarine Mines
    If you plan on riding without a helmet, you might want to check the laws for the state you're in at the moment. Some states are mandatory, some mandate just for a pillion (or under 18yo rider) others have no regulations at all.

    Also, lane splitting is legal in only one state (Ca) so far, be careful of that if its something you're used to.
    #8
  9. viverrid

    viverrid not dead yet

    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2004
    Oddometer:
    30,482
    Location:
    Western Mass
    What cause did he give to make it look like he wanted to ride without a helmet?
    #9
  10. Shaft

    Shaft counting my blessings

    Joined:
    Oct 25, 2006
    Oddometer:
    7,542
    Location:
    Crook county
    Contact a broker for major insurance company (such as state farm).
    They should be able to set you straight on what's required legally.
    Like others have stated, laws vary from state to state so you'll need to familiarize yourself with the various state requirments .

    Enjoy your trip.
    #10
  11. Shaft

    Shaft counting my blessings

    Joined:
    Oct 25, 2006
    Oddometer:
    7,542
    Location:
    Crook county
    I'd say none but I think TE was just adding a pertinent piece of information as a courtesy.
    #11
  12. RTLover

    RTLover Long timer

    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2009
    Oddometer:
    3,543
    Location:
    West-central France
    Been out of the USA for quite a few years. So, when were the requirements toughened up? :D
    #12
  13. trixterNorCal

    trixterNorCal Adventurer

    Joined:
    Feb 6, 2013
    Oddometer:
    44
    That is not always true. One must first properly understand the nature of the United States. Per Article 1 Section 2 Clause 3 of the constitution it is a union. There are 50 member states that comprise that union. I know this runs contrary to the indoctrination taught in schools, but when it comes to traffic laws it is the way it works. Each member state gets to set its own rules for what is and is not allowed on the roads. Some states do not require helmets others do. Some states do not have a CC limit for riding on highways and interstates others do. Remember the interstates are federally funded but are state patrolled by state law enforcement and state traffic laws are what is important.

    If you cannot maintain the speed limit you are not advised to go on the road however. Some states have had minimum speed limits for freeway/interstate travel. You are a menace if you cannot maintain the speed limit, and often the law requires you to pull over and let vehicles pass if they begin to queue behind you due to an inability or unwillingness to go the speed limit.

    Each state has its own traffic laws, each state has its own requirements, that means you should check where you plan on going. The AMA has a good resource for the various motorcycle laws in the various states. http://www.americanmotorcyclist.com/Rights/State-Laws.aspx


    International drivers licenses are not legally binding. You must present your real license when pulled over. The international drivers license just translates the information in a standardized form for the ease and benefit of the officer, who is more inclined to give you a warning than not because it can take hours to get a response back on whether or not your license is in good standing. A friend who worked for nato came back with german plates and license and it took 7 hours (6 hours overtime for the cop) to verify the plates and license which his commanding officer was not happy about but there was nothing that could be done. By law (here anyway) once they start the process they must complete it but if they just give you a warning they can let you go right away.

    Cops are no longer allowed to arbitrarily confiscate your drivers license. That went out of style about the 1970s. In every state I have seen they just revoke your driving privileges and your license, even if from a different jurisdiction, no longer grants you the ability to drive in that particular state. This often requires a court hearing or some type or defined process at the state DMV and that takes time (you can drive in the meantime, the whole innocent until proved guilty thing). It takes something fairly extreme to have your driving privileges suspended so this should not be a real concern about 'giving up your license'.

    More information on international driving permits and driving in the US is available at here and here in particular I draw attention to
    If the Israel drivers license is honored by the state in which you plan on traveling to (it most likely is) then that is all you absolutely must have, but many cops are stupid and getting a translation document (IDP) is probably a good idea. On the other hand they cannot give you a ticket if they cant figure out your license, but it can really delay your travels while they try to figure out what to do. Your passport and visa documents (if any, I think IL is visa free/rubber stamp) should be enough to ID you as that contains English but I am unsure they can figure out how to write a drivers license number if it uses the Hebrew character set. The choice is yours, personally I would avoid tickets in the first place. :)

    California does allow lane splitting however it must be done in a "safe and prudent manner" per the CHP (state police) and DMV (motor vehicles) websites. There is a "basic speed law" here which means you can get a ticket for splitting if the officer in his sole discretion feels you were going too fast for the conditions. The way traffic court works in virtually everywhere in the US is you are guilty unless you can prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that you aren't, and then you are only sorta guilty. Traffic judges always take the cops word and it is rare that anyone actually wins in traffic court (it happens but its rare).

    The old (October 2000 they removed them from their website) guidelines are:
    not faster than 35 mph
    not more than 10 mph faster than the flow of traffic
    not in excess of the posted speed limit

    The new guidelines are "anytime an officer doesnt like you". Some officers still hold to those guidelines, some dont. The more you weave in and out of traffic, the faster you go while splitting, etc the more likely you will be pulled over.


    Accidents while splitting/filtering are almost always blamed on the rider unless you have camera footage to prove otherwise. This could make you liable for damages to their vehicle or injuries they claim they sustained. If you do not have suitable insurance you personally would be liable but it would be a civil matter and really once you go home they cant collect (it would be bad to skip out, just get insurance and dont be stupid while riding).
    #13
  14. 68deluxe

    68deluxe Long timer

    Joined:
    Jun 7, 2003
    Oddometer:
    15,272
    Location:
    Phoenix AZ
    I would check with your state department. An international license may satisfy the requirement temporarily although I don't know if they are available for bikes.
    #14
  15. acejones

    acejones Long timer

    Joined:
    May 14, 2005
    Oddometer:
    5,394
    Location:
    MS. Gulf Coast

    This is completely incorrect. It depends entirely on the state.
    #15
  16. sorebutt

    sorebutt Long timer

    Joined:
    Jun 26, 2008
    Oddometer:
    2,082
    Location:
    Lewiston,ID
    Each state gives the license and the requirments are different for each state. Some states are pretty strick and others aren't. You will probably have to take a test in any state for a license. Most require you take a motorcycle saftey class and/or pass a test in addition to a test for a standard license.

    An international license with motorcycle endorsement might keep you from having to take the motorcycle class and test in some states.

    Basic laws are the same in every state because they lose funding from the federal gov. if they don't adapt the basic laws. Others have additional laws, like lane splitting or manditory helmets.

    Generally you will find the urban populated states are more strict than the rural less populated states.
    #16