What are the Motorcycle laws in Illinois.If you want to ride a motorcycle in Illinois, you need to know the laws that apply to you. That includes anything from helmet laws to laws that car and truck drivers must follow when encountering motorcycles.
These laws are relevant every moment you’re on the road but become especially important if you are involved in a motorcycle crash. Following all relevant rules can help ensure that in any legal action, the system will be on your side as you seek compensation.
After the accident, involve an Illinois lawyer experienced in traffic law and motorcycle accidents as soon as possible. But even before the crash, familiarize yourself with these laws to increase your physical and legal safety and that of anyone riding with you. Reach out to a motorcycle accident lawyer.
Illinois Motorcycle Helmet and Head Protection Laws
Illinois is one of the few states where a helmet is not required while riding a motorcycle. It’s one of only three U.S. states with no current helmet law on the books—the others being Iowa and New Hampshire.
The state does, however, have a law related to facial protection. State law 625 ILCS 5/11-1404 states that “the operator of a motorcycle, motor-driven cycle or moped, and every passenger thereon shall be protected by glasses, goggles or a transparent shield.”
That definition includes shatter-resistant glasses, sunglasses, and goggles specifically designed to protect the eyes without obstructing the rider’s peripheral vision. Motorcycles with a windshield extending above the eyes of the rider are sufficient.
Authorities in Illinois still recommend motorcycle helmets even though they don’t require them. They cite health leaders like the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which has published evidence that wearing a helmet while riding a motorcycle reduces head injuries by nearly 70 percent.
Laws can change, as well. While Illinois currently has no helmet laws, it may enact such a law under the pressure of federal authorities.
Illinois Licensing Laws
In Illinois, riding a motorcycle requires one of two licenses: Class L and Class M. The state defines Class L as a “motor-driven cycle with less than 150cc displacement,” which includes two-wheeled vehicles that are larger than mopeds but typically go no faster than 60 miles per hour. A Class M license permits the rider to drive any type of motorcycle on any Illinois road.
Class L Motorcycle License Requirements
For a $10 fee, you can begin the process of obtaining your Class L license in Illinois. You’ll need to take a written driving test, which consists of 15 questions, of which you’ll need to get 12 correct answers. You’ll also need to pass an on-cycle driving test with a licensed instructor.
If you are over 18 years old, you can waive the driving test needed to obtain your Class L license as long as you can show proof that you’ve completed a different motorcycle training course—like a driving test in another state.
Class M Motorcycle License Requirements
To obtain your Class M license, you’ll need to complete similar requirements compared to Class L. That includes a $10 fee, along with the same written test and an on-cycle driving test. The key here is that the motorcycle should have a displacement above 150cc to account for the larger vehicles this license will allow you to drive.
If you’re not yet 18 years old, you’ll also need to participate in the Basic Rider Course, part of the IDOT Cycle Rider Safety Training Program. If you have completed an advanced rider course in the same program, you’ll be able to waive both your written and driving test.
Finally, you can get instruction permits for both Class L and Class M licenses. The permit will be valid for 12 months and requires a valid state ID, birth date, and residency. You’ll need to pass a written exam, but you can operate a Class L motorcycle during daytime hours as long as another licensed rider with at least one year of riding experience is present.
Motorcycle Registration and Insurance Laws
As a motorcycle owner in Illinois, you’re required to register your motorcycle with the state. Simply complete the Application for Registration and Title form on the Illinois Secretary of State website. You’ll need to pay a registration fee that ranges between $150 and $175 depending on the make and model, a $50 titling fee, and relevant taxes.
The state of Illinois also requires every vehicle owner to insure their motorcycle and not let that insurance lapse. Riding your motorcycle without that insurance is a criminal offense. Even the first time can lead to a fine between $500 and $1,000, as well as suspension of your license for up to four months. That’s on top of the damage you might now be responsible for after a crash that the insurance would have otherwise covered.
At the minimum, your motorcycle insurance should cover potential liability for both bodily injury and property damage. Illinois law requires coverage oft at least $25,000 for bodily injury per person involved in an accident and $50,000 in total for injuries caused in that accident. The insurance must also cover at least $20,000 in property damage.
Of course, these are just the minimum insurance limits required by law. Depending on your finances, you can increase these insurance amounts to increase your insurance should you cause or become the victim of an accident.
Laws for Motorcycle Equipment
Of course, the right license and registration process is only the beginning.
Before you get your motorcycle on the road, you’ll need to know what equipment you can and cannot use according to state law 625 ILCS:
- You’ll need fully functional brakes on both wheels of your motorcycle. A brake on just one wheel is not enough.
- Your motorcycle should have a fully functioning horn that others can easily hear on the road, audible for at least 200 feet around you.
- You’ll also need headlights that follow Illinois and federal regulations, which include visibility of at least 500 feet in front of the motorcycle.
- All Illinois motorcycles need at least one side-view mirror that can be on the left or the right.
- Handgrips cannot exceed shoulder height when sitting in a “normal riding position.”
- Mufflers have to be unmodified in a way that would otherwise increase the noise of the motorcycle.
- The motorcycle must have a seat and footrests for both the driver and any passenger with them.
Following these equipment-related laws is essential. Not following them can incur fines, and you may be found at least partially at fault in an accident while riding your motorcycle.
Illinois Motorcycle Operation Laws
Most importantly, riding your motorcycle in the state of Illinois means you’ll be responsible for following the same laws as any other vehicle operator. That means following basic traffic laws and situations like riding your motorcycle under the influence of alcohol or other drugs.
Common sense is a great start. If an action could possibly endanger those around you, there is a high chance that this action is illegal and could lead to fines, loss of your driving privileges, or worse. Motorcyclists are vulnerable, as are those around them, so strict adherence to these laws is essential.
In addition, the state of Illinois has a few laws that apply specifically to motorcyclists:
- Motorcyclists must have at least one hand on the handlebars at all times while the motorcycle is in motion to ensure safe riding and prepare against any unexpected circumstances.
- Motorcyclists must have their headlights on at all times to increase visibility, not just in bad conditions but also to other vehicle owners around them.
- So-called wheelies are illegal in Illinois. Riding your motorcycle on one wheel at any point can incur a petty fine of at least $100 for your first offense, which escalates if it happens more than once.
- Lane splitting is illegal in Illinois. That means motorcycles cannot simultaneously pass two vehicles by driving in between two defined lanes of traffic and can only pass on the right of the other vehicle if there is a dedicated and free lane available to make this driving maneuver.
Passengers of all ages may ride on motorcycles in Illinois, but only if the vehicle is specifically designed to carry a passenger with a dedicated seat and footrest. Passengers must protect their eyes just like the driver and have one leg on either side of the motorcycle at all times.
Laws and Guidance for Car and Truck Drivers Related to Motorcycles
Motorcyclists are just one of the vehicle operators who need to be careful on Illinois streets. Recognizing that motorcycles are among the most vulnerable participants in regular traffic, the state also takes special care to ensure that car and truck drivers give motorcyclists the attention they deserve.
Illinois state law is clear that all of its provisions apply equally to motorcycles, which it defines as “every motor vehicle having a seat or saddle for the use of the rider and designed to travel on not more than three wheels in contact with the ground, but excluding an autocycle or tractor.”
In addition, the Illinois Secretary of State’s annual Rules of the Road publication explains how truck and car drivers should interact with motorcyclists who share the road with them in a few crucial ways:
- Intersections. As the publication outlines, more than half of all motorcycle crashes happen at intersections, most commonly when a car turns left in front of a motorcycle. Yielding the right of way and paying special attention to motorcycles is crucial, especially (but not only) for left turns.
- Stoplights. Motorcycles are allowed to proceed through an intersection even at a red light if it fails to turn green after 120 seconds, as long as they yield their right of way.
- Lane sharing. Even if there might be enough room for a vehicle next to a motorcycle, the motorcycle is entitled to the entire lane. For cars and trucks, lane sharing with a motorcycle is always illegal.
- Passing. Motorcyclists are allowed to pass other vehicles in a legal fashion, and these other vehicles cannot interfere with the passing maneuver. If a motorcycle passes another vehicle, the other vehicle should maintain its lane position and speed.
- Following and stopping distance. Cars and trucks must allow at least three to four seconds of following distance behind a motorcycle. They should also dim their headlights when following motorcyclists.
The guide also cautions vehicle operators about the increased dangers for motorcyclists in the event of adverse conditions and their increased vulnerability in case of a crash. These conditions and vulnerabilities mean that motorcycles deserve special attention from anyone on the road around them, ensuring the protection, health, and safety of everyone involved.
Maneuvering Motorcycle Laws and Legalities in Illinois
If you’re operating a motorcycle in Illinois, you need to be aware of the many laws and regulations. Keep in mind that these laws are designed to protect you, and following them will always be in your best interest. The Illinois Motorcycle Operator Manual, published annually by the Illinois Secretary of State, is a great resource that covers these and other nuances of riding your motorcycle in the state.
If you were injured or involved in a crash in Illinois, at least one of these laws will likely be at issue in a legal proceeding. Get in touch with a personal injury lawyer to get the help and guidance you need.