Motorcycle Equipment Required in New York State

NYS DMV sheet showing equipment required for motorcycles (pdf).


Motorcycle operators must have protective eyewear, either goggles or a face shield. A windshield is not considered eye protection. Approved eyewear must meet the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) “Z87” Standard. NYS VTL 381 (7)


Handlebars or grips cannot be higher than the motorcycle operator’s shoulders. NYS VTL 381 (5)


Inspection stickers must be placed on a structural member of the left front side of the motorcycle. Aftermarket inspection plates are allowed. NYS VTL 306 (b)


Motorcycle tires must have at least 2/32″ tread. Readings shall be taken in a major groove of the tire nearest to the center at two points of the circumference not closer than 15 inches. NYS VTL 375 (35c)


The license plate must be illuminated and visible for 50 feet NYS VTL 381 (1a).

License plates must be securely mounted no higher than 48 inches and no lower than 12 inches from the ground on the rear of the vehicle NYS VTL 402 (1a).

License plates must be unobstructed, clean, easily readable and with no synthetic material covering the plate. License plates can be mounted vertically. NYS VTL 402 (1b).

License plates are required to be conspicuously displayed on the rear of the motorcycle and not at the rear axle. NYS VTL 411 (1).


Headlamps and Lights Facing Front

Headlamps must be operational and visible for 200 feet. Modulating headlamps in the daytime are legal (NYS VTL 381 (1a) and permitted by Federal law 49CFR Section 571.108, paragraph S7.9.4.

The color of front-facing lights on a motorcycle can only be either white or yellow. NYS VTL 381 (1a)

Directional Signals

Directional signals are required if the motorcycle was originally equipped with directional signals or is a 1985 or newer model.

Stop/Tail/Plate Lamp

A red or Amber brake lamp and a red tail lamp are required. Of course, motorcyclists know many drivers don’t see motorcycles with or without a light! Always watch your back at a red light. See why drivers don’t see motorcycles.

At least one red reflector on the rear is required.

A rear lamp must illuminate the number on the license plate. NYS VTL 381 (1a)

Under Glow Lights & Colored Lights

Red lights cannot be facing front and blue or green lights in any direction is not legal except for authorized emergency vehicles while being operated in an emergency. NYS VTL 381 (3)

Read more about under glow lights on motorcycles in New York


A motorcycle horn must simply be adequate and is required. NYS VTL 381 (1a)


Motorcycles newer than 1967 are required to have one rearview mirror. NYS VTL 381 (10)


Helmets are required in New York. Wearing an unapproved helmet is the same as not wearing a helmet. NYS VTL 381 (6)

Helmets must meet the requirements set forth in section 571.218 of the federal motor vehicle safety standards. It is unlawful to sell a helmet which is not in compliance.

Motorcycle helmet speakers may only have one earphone. NYS VTL 375 (24-a)


Altered pipes or straight pipes are illegal for motorcycles manufactured after 1979. No modification of the exhaust system that increases noise beyond the exhaust system originally installed is permitted.

Exhaust pipes louder than OEM pipes are not legal. Almost all aftermarket exhaust pipes are not legal. NYS VTL 381(11)

This law is unfair because it regulates the exhaust, not the decibel level while it is legal to change the exhaust and muffler on a car. Additionally, the law is more restrictive than the decibel level allowed for motorcycles or cars. See motor vehicle sound level limits NYS VTL 386.

Although NYS VTL § 1671 states, “No local authority may enact or enforce a law that applies only to motorcycles…”, it also states, “…nothing contained herein shall be deemed to supersede the authority of any local authority to regulate traffic pursuant to the provisions of this title, or to regulate noise.”

The exhaust pipe should have a stamp showing it is EPA approved. NYS VTL 381 (11)


Passenger seat is required if carrying a passenger.

Passenger footrest is required if carrying a passenger.


See the laws which apply to the operation of motorcycles on New York roads.

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