Understanding Motorcycle Licensing Requirements in Illinois: A Guide for Riders

Riding a motorcycle is an exhilarating way to travel, offering freedom and adventure on the open road. However, before you can enjoy the wind in your hair and the thrill of the ride in Illinois, it’s essential to understand the state’s motorcycle licensing requirements. As personal injury lawyers who represent clients severely injured in motorcycle collisions, we emphasize the importance of being well-informed and properly licensed to ensure safety and legal compliance. Below is a comprehensive guide to obtaining your motorcycle license in Illinois.

Types of Motorcycle Licenses in Illinois

Illinois offers two types of motorcycle licenses:

  1. Class L License: This is for motor-driven cycles with less than 150cc engine displacement.
  2. Class M License: This covers motorcycles with 150cc or greater engine displacement.

Steps to Obtain a Motorcycle License

  1. Eligibility and Age Requirements
  • To obtain a Class L or Class M license, applicants must be at least 18 years old.
  • Riders between 16 and 17 years old can also obtain a motorcycle license, but there are additional requirements, including completing a motorcycle training course and having parental consent.
  1. Instruction Permit

Before applying for a full motorcycle license, it’s advisable to obtain an instruction permit, which allows you to practice riding legally. Here’s how:

The instruction permit is valid for 12 months and allows you to ride during daylight hours while under the direct supervision of a licensed motorcycle rider who is at least 21 years old and has a minimum of one year of riding experience.


  1. Motorcycle Rider Education Course

Illinois offers a Motorcycle Rider Education Course that is highly recommended, especially for new motorcycle riders. Completing this course has several benefits:

  • Waiver of the Road Test: Graduates of the course may be exempt from taking the riding and written portions of the Illinois motorcycle license test when applying for their license.
  • Skill Development: The course covers essential riding skills and safety practices, allowing for the riding to become a better and safer rider.
  • Insurance Discounts: Many insurance companies offer discounts to riders who complete a certified training course.

The course includes both classroom instruction and hands-on riding practice. It covers important topics such as motorcycle controls, basic riding techniques, and emergency maneuvers.

  1. Written and Road Tests

If you do not take the Motorcycle Rider Education Course, you will need to pass both a written test and a road test to obtain your license.

  • Written Test: This test assesses your knowledge of motorcycle operation, traffic laws, and safety practices. It is similar to the written test for a regular driver’s license, but focuses on motorcycle-specific information.
  • Road Test: The road test evaluates your ability to operate a motorcycle safely in real-world conditions. You will need to demonstrate various skills, including starting and stopping, turning, signaling, and handling different traffic situations.
  1. Obtaining Your License

Once you have passed the required tests and met all the criteria, you can apply for your Class L or Class M license. You will need to provide:

  • Proof of identity, residency, and legal presence in the United States.
  • A certificate of completion from the Motorcycle Rider Education Course (if applicable).
  • Payment for the license fee.

Safety and Legal Considerations

Having a valid motorcycle license is not just a legal requirement; it’s a critical component of safe riding. Unlicensed riders may lack the necessary skills and knowledge to navigate traffic safely, increasing the risk of accidents. In 2020, there were 2,621 motorcycle crashes in Illinois, resulting in 1,835 injuries and 152 fatalities.  Licensed and properly trained riders are better equipped to avoid accidents and handle emergency situations.

Comparative Negligence and Riding Without a Valid License

In Illinois, the concept of comparative negligence is crucial in personal injury cases, including motorcycle accidents. Comparative negligence means that if you are partially at fault for an accident, your compensation may be reduced by your percentage of fault. This is particularly relevant if you are riding without a valid motorcycle license.

  1. Impact on Liability: If you are involved in an accident without a valid license, the court may determine that you were partly at fault for the accident because an unlicensed rider is assumed to lack the necessary skills and knowledge to operate a motorcycle safely.
  2. Reduction in Compensation: Your compensation for injuries and damages could be significantly reduced. For example, if you are found to be 30% at fault for the accident due to not having a valid license, your compensation would be reduced by 30%.
  3. Legal and Financial Consequences: Beyond the reduction in compensation, riding without a valid license can lead to fines, increased insurance premiums, and difficulties in legal proceedings. It can also affect your credibility and the strength of your personal injury claim.

Obtaining a motorcycle license in Illinois involves several steps, but each is designed to ensure that riders are prepared and qualified to handle the responsibilities of motorcycling. Whether you’re a new rider or an experienced one, complying with these requirements is essential for your safety and legal protection.

At our Naperville personal injury law firm, we are committed to supporting safe riding practices and helping injured motorcycle riders navigate the legal complexities following an accident. If you or a loved one has been injured as the result of a motorcycle collision, contact the motorcycle accident attorneys at John J. Malm & Associates to learn more about how you may be entitled to receive compensation for your injuries. Your safety and well-being are our top priorities, both on and off the road.

IMG_7305-234x300About the Author: Rachel Legorreta is an associate with the law firm of John J. Malm & Associates, where she focuses her practice on personal injury litigation. She graduated magna cum laude from Northern Illinois University College of Law and is the immediate past Editor-in-Chief of the DCBA Brief.

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