USA: what age and restrictions to ride motorcycles?

Discussion in 'Regional Forums' started by TheLondonder, Mar 8, 2018.

  1. TheLondonder

    TheLondonder Been here awhile

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    I hope this is the right subforum - after all, there isn't a single forum for the USA.

    As per the subject, my question is very simple: how old do you need to be to ride a motorcycle in the US? Are there restrictions? Does it change from state to state? Is it true that, at the grand old age of 16, you can ride any motorcycle?

    AFAIK in most of the Western world you only get direct access to ride any motorcycle between 21 and 24; before those ages, you typically have different tiers of licence with different restrictions.

    It's just curiosity, I'm not 16 and I'm not moving to the US :)
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  2. ryder1

    ryder1 Long timer

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    It varies by state. Which state are you looking at?
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  3. TheLondonder

    TheLondonder Been here awhile

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  4. sasho

    sasho Dual Personality

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    Sh*t I've seen little kids rip it up in the woods... On a motorcycle or an ATV
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  5. Bindlestiff

    Bindlestiff Been here awhile

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    Yep, you just have to have a normal driver's license, take a pretty cursory written and riding test and then 'busa up!

    I should also point out that a fairly large proportion of American riders don't even do that. Nobody really cares that much if you're properly licensed or not and a lot of riders aren't. There's no mechanism to stop you from buying or registering a bike without an endorsement, and the insurance companies will generally insure you without an endorsement at a slightly higher rate. You only run the risk of getting pulled over, but even then in most states it's just slightly more serious than a speeding ticket. You won't go to jail or get your bike confiscated or anything like that. (They might impound your bike but you just have to pay the tow fee to get it out.)

    If the powers that be wanted to add a graduated licensing scheme here, unless it added more teeth to the licensing rules that do exist it would probably just be ignored.

    I think in all states these days you have to be 16 to get a full license. The one link with the list of ages is showing the minimum age to get a learner's permit. So your 14-year old in Alabama could legally ride a litre bike but only if a supervising fully licensed parent is following behind.
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  6. spininprop

    spininprop 2016 FJR1300

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    While it may be true buying a bike in the US from a private sale is fairly open to anyone, you could not buy a bike from a dealer without a motorcycle endorsement on your license and ride it home. Another licensed rider would be required or trailer it. For a dealer to release the bike otherwise would be against the law and the same for Private sale but that is tough tracking.

    I'll also comment that in my area northeast US , non licensed motorcycles, non inspected motorcycles and non licensed riders are all under greater scrutiny. It's a greater risk than five years ago.

    HiQUOTE="TheLondonder, post: 34510118, member: 362018"]I hope this is the right subforum - after all, there isn't a single forum for the USA.

    As per the subject, my question is very simple: how old do you need to be to ride a motorcycle in the US? Are there restrictions? Does it change from state to state? Is it true that, at the grand old age of 16, you can ride any motorcycle?

    AFAIK in most of the Western world you only get direct access to ride any motorcycle between 21 and 24; before those ages, you typically have different tiers of licence with different restrictions.

    It's just curiosity, I'm not 16 and I'm not moving to the US :)[/QUOTE]
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  7. CaptCapsize

    CaptCapsize Been here awhile

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    It is funny that my nephew who is in his late 20s has an full motorcycle endorsement in his home country of Holland. But the state of Oregon will not recognize it. Getting a licences anywhere in the EU requires much more training and has a graduated structure limiting the bike power as a function of age. Where in the USA, a pubescent 16 year old with minimal training can get a full endorsement.
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  8. shinyribs

    shinyribs doesn't care

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    In VA you can get your driver's license at 16. You can add a motorcycle endorsement at 18. When you've got a driver's license and the learner's permit for your motorcycle endorsement you aren't allowed to ride alone, yet. You have to ride with another fully licensed rider, and not out past dark.

    Unless something has changed.
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  9. shinyribs

    shinyribs doesn't care

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    Oregon doesn't care about his training, sadly, they just want his money.
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  10. CaptCapsize

    CaptCapsize Been here awhile

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    My Dutch relatives tell me that a lot of people in the EU send their children to the US to get a drivers license because our requirements are so low and inexpensive. Then they go back to Europe and exchange their US license for one back home.
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  11. TheLondonder

    TheLondonder Been here awhile

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    Not in the whole of the EU. Maybe some rich Dutch families. I know for a fact that the UK and Italy do not exchange US licences for theirs. The British DMV is called DVLA and you can easily look this up.

    I once met an American who moved from Amsterdam to London. In the Netherlands he had managed to convert his US licence to a Dutch one, but he couldn't convert that to a British one so he had to retake the test from scratch.

    Note: EU licences are recognised in the EU and can be exchanged for one another as long as the test was taken in the EU, which wasn't the case with this guy.

    The notion that a 16 year old can drive a BMW s1000rr as his first bike ever is wrong on so many levels.. . Even if practically it rarely happens it's still wrong!


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  12. CaptCapsize

    CaptCapsize Been here awhile

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    Thanks for the correct info. I do think the EU has a better licensing structure than we do here. I have driven a little in Europe and the UK. I feel on average the driving skill is better over there than here. Even for the countries which do not drive on the right side of the road.:-) I have been corrected we drive on the right side of the road, and the UK drives on the correct side of the road.
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  13. King_Kong

    King_Kong Been here awhile

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    I was more shocked that my cousin was driving a 6,000 lb truck legally at 14 years old. I think he is in south dakota.

    Kid doesnt even have pubes and has the power to do some major lethal damage.
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  14. Achat1982

    Achat1982 n00b

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    well, it also depends on what kind of bike you're referring to. and yeah, it also depends on every state separately.
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  15. Bindlestiff

    Bindlestiff Been here awhile

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    [/QUOTE]

    So I know this was a while ago, but do you have any examples of this? Anecdotally, you hear lots of stories of people who buy bikes from dealers (in the US) and their only rider training is the salesman showing them the basics before sending them on their way. I know certainly where I am there's no such law preventing them from selling and letting someone ride off without an endorsement. They ask for endorsements for test rides more, but I assume that's an insurance issue.

    Does it? At least as far as I know, no US state has a European-style graduated licensing scheme. Some bikes don't require any licenses at all (usually below 49cc) but other than that if you jump through the minor hoops to get a motorcycle endorsement you can ride anything.
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  16. NorskieRider

    NorskieRider Been here awhile

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    Don't even need a riding test - the written test is all that's needed for a permit, and that's all that's needed to operate a motorcycle legally - within some parameters such as not riding at night, no passenger, must wear helmet etc. Of course it varies by state.

    When I was growing up in Norway (non-EU) this was common. The price and high standards of getting a DL in Norway made it feasible to visit relatives in the US and come home with a license. I don't know if this is still possible, but the point is, we don't really have much for standards when it comes to learning to drive (or ride) and it shows. Granted, it takes a lot less skill to navigate Kansas than the Fjords and roundabouts, and income levels in Norway are generally much higher than in the US, so there is some logic to it.
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  17. TheLondonder

    TheLondonder Been here awhile

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    To my European eyes, how easy it is to get driving licences in the US beggars belief. I can sort of understand it with cars, because the car lobby is very powerful, and because driving huge 4x4 in the middle of nowhere in Montana is probably easier than driving a mini in a congested European metropolis with tiny road built well before cars were invented. But, wtr motorcycles, I find it is absurdly inexcusable sloppiness. Motorcycles are powerful things - you can get hurt by yourself in a parking lot if you can't control them properly. Arguably they are easier to control with all the modern electronic contraptions (ride-by-wire, traction control, etc) but they are still dangerous and much harder than cars to master. I always bring this up when Americans make fun of how Mexicans don't even need a test to get their driving licence.

    Wikipedia has a list of road fatalities per year, per 100k inhabitants. Of course the list must be taken with a truckload of salt, there are huge differences among countries, Europeans probably drive less than Americans but have more pedestrians, etc. Still, the difference is striking:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_traffic-related_death_rate
    USA: 10.6
    Italy: 6.1
    Spain: 3.7
    Norway 2
    Switzerland 2.6
    UK 2.9
    Japan 4.7
    Canada 6

    Even the difference with Canada (10.6 vs 6) is striking, because I understand Canada is quite similar to the US in terms of transportation (people use private cars more and public transport less than in Europe)
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  18. Bindlestiff

    Bindlestiff Been here awhile

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    I think most (but not all) of the difference can be explained by the miles driven per capita. I can't find a concise source for that, but if you hit the "deaths per billion vehicle KMs" tab in your link I think that gets close to normalizing the data.

    Canada seems similar to the US, but they actually drive significantly less on average because a bigger proportion of their population lives in major cities.
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  19. TheLondonder

    TheLondonder Been here awhile

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    According to this Wikipedia page, under the section which compares the US with other countries
    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transportation_safety_in_the_United_States

    Normalising by distance travelled reduces the difference vs UK and Germany, but the death rate in the US is still double that of Sweden or Ontario (Canada).

    Of course traffic deaths are recorded, while miles travelled must be estimated, and how reliable these estimates are is a big question.

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  20. Addapost

    Addapost Adventurer

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    Ha! Agreeed. My inlaws and nieces live there. Friggin crazy how young they let kids drive out there.
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