New Jersey gets serious about motorcycle safety

Dailies -



There’s a host of motorcycle safety laws that’ve been rolled out nationwide recently. Oregon is mandating MSF-style training for all new riders by 2015, California now requires under 21s to complete an MSF class and Utah only allows you to operate a motorcycle as large as the one you test on. Now New Jersey is defining license tiers based on engine capacity and creating a new classification for small-capacity bikes too.

“There’s a big difference between operating a suped-up sport bike, and riding a Vespa scooter,” New Jersey state senator Nicholas Sacco told Politicker NJ. “If you learn how to ride on a small-engine bike, that doesn’t necessarily qualify you to safely operate a much larger vehicle. This bill would take a proactive approach to discourage riders from riding above their skill-level, rather than waiting for tragedy to strike.”


Bill S-736, which was signed into law January 28, creates two motorcycle license tiers. If you pass your test on a bike 231cc or smaller, you can only ride a bike up to 500cc. Pass it on a larger bike and you can ride anything. That might not sound like much, but by varying the cost and difficulty of the two tests, New Jersey will be able to effectually steer new riders towards the lower capacity.

“The Federal Highway Authority estimates that about 2,500 motorcycles are involved in traffic accidents each year in New Jersey, and the State Division of Highway Safety reports that motorcycles accidents account for 70 or more fatalities and nearly 2,000 injuries each year,” continues senator Sacco. “We have to recognize the facts, and do all we can to make sure that operating a motorcycle is as safe as possible in the Garden State.”

Additionally, the bill mandates completion of a recognized motorcycle safety course for license applicants under the age of 18.

Bikes under 50cc or making only 1.5bhp are separated into a new category that restricts them to 35mph and makes them accessible to people holding a car license.

“Riding a motorcycle can be a great experience, but we want to make sure it’s also a safe experience, not only for the riders but for everyone else on the road,” concluded senator Sacco.

  • Ted

    I prefer natural selection.

    • Core

      Personally I’d just like to see more people with some common damn sense. You’d think people would actually research a little on what there getting into.

      I understand you need to ride as well. But know the risk and the mitigate them.

      But some people I suppose have more money/credit than brains.

    • Kyle

      natural selection is great for riders… not so great for non riders because they just focus on the stats

  • Archer

    It’s a lot like this in Japan. A liter-plus ticket costs as much as $3500 USD equivalent (private school) and the test is quite challenging. (Yes, you can take the test cheaply at a public facility but you’ll rarely pass owing to an arcane system that forces you to go to private schools. Don’t ask why, the story isn’t pretty.)

  • robotribe

    1. There’s no such thing as “safe” motorcycling; the only thing even starts to mitigate motorcycle safety is training, common sense and a healthy dose of self-regulatory fear and self-preservation. Of those, only training can be enforced by policy. The others are left to Darwinism.

    2. The restrictions based on engine capacity are arguably sensible. However, that does imply that the “easy M-1 endorsement via MSF” no longer guarantees access to anything larger than a 500cc. I don’t know about non-CA DMV tests, but that lollypop/circle/cone test is a daunting bitch on a sport bike, let alone some huge cruiser. Would-be NJ pirates are gonna be PISSED.

    3.Sub-50cc only requiring a car driving license is good news for scooter/moped dealers but potentially bad for those adopters who interpret that restriction as excuse to not take even their “toy bikes” seriously.

    • jpenney

      Limited to 35 MPH is not much faster than a good bicyclist. I would classify that as reasonable for most people to handle.

      • robotribe

        As a cyclist myself, I agree that 35 mph isn’t uncommon, but it certainly takes a good more effort and isn’t as easily achievable by every cyclist and isn’t readily available via legs as it is via twist of the throttle. Certainly, most could handle 35mph, but it’s an interesting place to exist on the road given the fact you’d be limited to certain roads, and don’t have the option of riding on the side as you could with a bicycle.

        And let’s be honest, sustained 35 mph speed via bicycle on the flats is relegated by talent and abilities held by a few CAT2 and above cyclists or pros. Cippolini, Cavendish and Pettachi are the next level up. I’m lucky to average 20mph over a few hours.

  • ike6116

    DJ Pauly D is from Rhode Island brah

    • Kyle

      hes honorary jersey now…

  • Kirill

    This makes sense, but limiting to just 18 and unders or 21 and unders isn’t going to stop morons older than that from owning themselves.

  • NitroPye

    I read somewhere that in the US there is a large number of riders without a license. I don’t know the exact number as it was some time ago I read this but I do remember being shocked at how high it was.

    Would laws like these effect much if most of those predisposed to squid behavior are going to hop on a bike regardless of an M endorsement?

    • Kirill

      Nope, only better enforcement is going to stop them. Or at least better permit rules.

      I had a friend that rode an R6 for at least six months with just his permit, including riding at night, on the freeway, and with a passenger (all illegal).

    • RocketSled

      My MSF instructor thought it was about 40%…he also stated that a non-endorsement ticket was about $500…where the MSF class was $250. He stated that most judges would greatly reduce the fine if it was demonstrated you took the class and got the endorsement before the court date.

      Don’t shoot the messenger, I’m far from authoritative here.

  • slowtire

    “by varying the cost and difficulty of the two tests, New Jersey will be able to effectually steer new riders towards the lower capacity.”

    I live in NJ and like most other states, driving is a privelage, not a right. This law makes some sense and may even help save lives and boost lower cc model sales.
    On the other hand, This F’n state is so over regulated it’s rediculous. Some woman legislator last month put forth a bill to have every bicycle in the state pay a registration fee and hang a tag. The reason: some kid ran into an ederly person in her district and they couldn’t identify who it was. So, she wants to license every F’n bicycle in the state so we can now catch those little bastards that run into old folks and split. Fortunately, smarter minds intervened and kicked the bill into oblivion after convincing her how moronic it was. It just never ends in NJ. They have about outlawed ATV’s. What’s next? If you look up ‘Nanny State’ in the dictionary, you’ll see a picture of NJ.
    I honestly hope this law helps and doesn’t lead to more restrictions and un-needed regulation.

    • Core

      “I honestly hope this law helps and doesn’t lead to more restrictions and un-needed regulation.”

      …What you just said, is like watching ten people slide off an icy hill, and you see another coming and you go.. “I hope he doesn’t go off as well”..

      • slowtire

        I hear ya. What I mean is this: It seems that every time a new law is passed in this state, it seems to grow tentacles, no matter how good or bad it might be. I’ve lived here for over 50 years and I guarantee that at some point in the future, some legislator will use it to leap frog to more regulation that will most likely not be favorable.

    • jp182

      I live here in NJ as well and the age addition should help as well. I’m sure this license thing will be misconstrued but you never know.

      NJ really needs to do more to make this place motorcycle friendly to encourage good riders.

  • Core

    What’s the old saying… You can’t outlaw stupidity? or something..

    you have to get a license for a car, yet thousands of people die in automobile accidents every year…

    You have to get CDL license for Semis.. difficult to get. But still their are accidents every year? I have seen some of those mangled trucks.

    This is nothing more than a tactic to get in more revenue. This is my observation.

    Now if this were some awareness program. Saying don’t run over motorcyclist or scooter riders… I might give a small cheer.. but its not.

    • slowtire

      Well, it’s law now, so we’ll see what happens. Like I said, I hope it helps.

    • dux

      Licenses don’t make people safer – practice and alertness does. Stupid government.

  • Ian

    Nailed the photo.


    • pinkyracer

      totally. with all that hairgel, who needs a helmet? he’ll bounce right off the pavement. It’d be a shame to ruin those guns with roadrash though.

    • bluemoco

      Pauly D, right?

  • Daniel

    I live in Spain, and here getting a motorcycle license is quite hard. We have tiered licensing, it looks more or less like this:

    14 yo –> 50cc bikes, max speed 45km/h
    16 yo A1 license –> up to 25hp/15kw i think, this is up to 125cc bikes more or less
    18 yo A2 license –> up to 47hp (35kw), you can limit a more powerful bike to 35kw, but this bike cannot have originally more than 70kw (95hp), and limited cannot have more than 0’2kw/kg power to weight relation (that means you cannot pick bikes lighter than 175kg or so).

    Doing so they keep you away from all the superbikes, most of the sportbikes and all the most powerful ones…

    A license 20+ yo –> you must have 2years of A2 prior to having the tests for A license. It allows you to ride any power, any power/weight ratio bikes. Oh and sidecar. You cant ride a bike with sidecar with A2 (no ural for us in the first 2 years)

    50cc –> small theory test
    A1 –> theory test (all traffic rules + specific motorcycle part)
    A2 –> theory test (same as A1, if you have A1 then you dont need this test. Also traffic rules are the same as in car license, so if you have a car license you need to have the test only for motorcycle specific things). Circuit test (with some slalom, acceleration, braking, manoeuvers, etc), and road/street test.

    A –> 2 years having A2, then a circuit test. We dont know yet if there will be a theory test or road test…this kind of tiered licenses is still 1yo…

    Im preparing myself to get A2 license, and i can tell you its a pain in the ass, it costs quite a lot of money, and its difficult.

    This was making motorcycle sales to go down and down, so they invented this thing, if you have 3yo car license, then you can drive the same bikes as if you had A1 bike license (125cc). So everyone can buy an scooter to commute, and scooters are very common for example in barcelona.

    Real bikes arent so common…getting the license is hard and expensive, and biking is seen as a very dangerous thing, so most of the people who have bikes use them on weekends, very few use their bikes for commuting.

    • Kentaro

      It’s unfortunate that the government is limiting the private sector’s success like that.

  • R.Sallee

    “Utah only allows you to operate a motorcycle as large as the one you test on.”

    What a dumb effing law. 1) A DMV riding test is no different on a bigger bike than on a smaller bike. 2) I get a 250 and put 30,000 miles on it in three years…and three years later I have to do my license test all over when I decide to get a bigger bike?

    And for what? Idiots suddenly won’t be idiots? Motorcycles lose their danger? Give me a break.

    • Mr.Paynter

      Agreed, that’d definitely be a pain in the ass and would also have guys trying their utmost to test on the largest machine they can get their hands on to avoid having to repeat.

      Here in South Africa we have a simlar set-up but it’s one split, IE – Test on a 125cc and under, that’s all you can ride, test on a 126cc and over and you can legally pick up anything on the market,regardless of riding experience.

      Which has it’s own set of scary tales the likes of which we all hear about all the time from all your car friends who constantly barrage you with the stories of friends of friends of friends motorcycle failures!

      Although we don’t have the spending power of the first world out here, so there are squids around but nowhere near the numbers of them you guys seem to see, and I’ve never seen a ‘busa with a stretched swing-arm!

  • Steven

    They have this all backwards!

    They should force people to ride motorcycles first, and only after they gain a certain amount of experience on these far less dangerous vehicles should people be able to drive four wheeled death machines.