Kentucky treats motorcycles and motorcycle riders differently from other vehicles and drivers. Motorcycles must meet different requirements than cars and trucks to comply with Kentucky law. Motorcycle operators must meet additional requirements to obtain a motorcycle license.

But the most important difference between motorcycles and other vehicles comes from the way you insure them. Kentucky does not require motorcycle owners to buy no-fault insurance. This can provide both an opportunity and a trap for motorcycle owners after a motorcycle accident.

Here are some of the most important motorcycle licensing requirements in Lexington, Kentucky, and an overview of the ways that they can affect your injury claim after an accident.

Why Kentucky Laws Treat Motorcycles Differently

Kentucky regulates all motor vehicles, from pickup trucks to mopeds. But Kentucky puts motorcycles and motorcycle operators in a class by themselves.

The primary reason for separating motorcycles from other vehicles stems from the desire to protect the health and safety of motorcycle operators.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), a motorcycle operator’s likelihood of dying in a traffic accident is four times greater than a vehicle driver. The NHTSA also found that the likelihood of an injury to a motorcycle operator is 29 times higher than a vehicle driver.

Motorcycles require all the skills of driving, plus the physical coordination and dexterity to balance the bike. Motorcycles also have a higher power-to-weight ratio than passenger vehicles. Controlling that amount of power can require skill and strength.

Vehicles protect drivers and passengers with over a ton of steel and plastic, while motorcycles leave riders exposed. With Kentucky’s watered-down helmet law, motorcycle operators often have no protection in the event of an accident.

As a result, Kentucky imposes additional requirements on motorcycles and riders that it does not impose on passenger vehicles and drivers.

Motorcycle Licensing Requirements

Under Kentucky law, motorcycles include vehicles that travel on no more than three wheels and provide a seat or saddle for the operator. It must travel at a maximum speed greater than 50 miles per hour and have a cylinder capacity of over 50 cubic centimeters.

Kentucky classifies motor scooters and mopeds separate from motorcycles.

For a motorcycle to meet Kentucky’s definition of “street legal,” it must have:

  • A left side mirror
  • Headlights
  • A muffler

Kentucky does not impose any restrictions on the handlebars. This means your motorcycle can legally have ape hanger handlebars.

In Kentucky, your motorcycle does not need to have turn signals. But if your motorcycle lacks turn signals, you must use arm signals when you make turns.

A motorcycle does not need to have a passenger seat and footrests or footpegs unless you carry a passenger.

Kentucky does not require motorcycle owners to have a safety inspection before registering the vehicle.

Motorcycle Operator Licensing Requirements

To obtain a motorcycle license, you must fit into one of two categories:

  • Age 18 or older
  • Between 16 and 18 with a valid driver’s license

In other words, people 18 or older do not need to get a driver’s license before applying for a motorcycle license. But 16- and 17-year-old drivers must get a driver’s license first, then apply for a motorcycle license.

Drivers under 18-years old must either have auto insurance or the signature of an adult who accepts liability for damages caused by the driver’s negligence. If the young motorcyclist causes a car accident, the adult who signed the application must pay for any damages not covered by insurance.

If a driver meets the application requirements, the driver can take a vision test, written examination, and road skills test. The applicant must pass all three to receive a motorcycle license. But if the applicant takes a motorcycle safety education course approved by Kentucky, the state can waive the skills test.

Motorcycle Instruction Permit

Under Kentucky’s system for issuing motorcycle licenses, the Circuit Court Clerk first issues an instructional permit. If you have no traffic violations while driving on your instructional permit for a set period of time, you can upgrade to a full motorcycle operator’s license.

The periods set out in Kentucky’s licensing law include:

  • Drivers within 180 days before their 18th birthday must wait 180 days and pass a motorcycle safety education course
  • Drivers between the ages of 18 and 21 must wait 180 days
  • Drivers 21 or older must wait 30 days

Drivers between 16 and 18 have a two-step licensing process. They must first operate on an instructional permit for 180 days, then operate on an intermediate permit for 180 days. At the end of the 360 days, the driver can apply for a motorcycle operator’s license if they had no traffic violations.

Instructional permits limit the hours you can drive and restrict you from carrying passengers. If you violate the terms of the instructional permit, Kentucky can deny a full motorcycle operator’s license.

Motorcycle Insurance Requirements

If you own a motorcycle, you must insure it before Kentucky will issue a license plate and registration. Kentucky uses a no-fault insurance system for motor vehicles. This means that you first seek compensation from your auto insurer after a car accident, regardless of who caused the accident.

The no-fault system guarantees you will receive assistance with medical bills and lost income regardless of who caused the accident. But you can only file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver if your injuries meet certain thresholds.

Kentucky does not require motorcycle owners to buy no-fault insurance, also called personal injury protection coverage. This means you have no automatic compensation like you would with no-fault auto insurance.

But under Kentucky’s no-fault system, motorcyclists still have the same limitations on the right to sue as other drivers. After an accident, you could have no recourse to either insurers or the at-fault driver.

To remedy this, you must either buy no-fault insurance for your motorcycle or file a no-fault rejection form with the commonwealth of Kentucky.

Freedom from Kentucky’s no-fault system might also present an opportunity. If you file a no-fault rejection form, you will have no limitations on your right to sue. After a motorcycle accident occurs, you can immediately pursue a claim against the at-fault driver for damages that may include medical expenses, lost income, and pain and suffering.

To discuss your rights to file a lawsuit after a motorcycle accident, contact Hare, Wynn, Newell & Newton, LLP for a free consultation. We’ll help you to explore your legal options for recovery in light of Lexington’s motorcycle laws.