child motorcycle passenger

The Legal Age for a Child Passenger on a Motorcycle

11/19/2020
By Logan Quirk

Motorcycles are prized for the convenience they provide. You and a motorcycle passenger can reach your destination faster because you don’t get bogged down in traffic constantly. Simply put, traveling by motorcycle is more convenient.

Riding together with an adult is no issue as long as both of you follow the laws. But what if you want to take your child to school or head somewhere to hang out? Can you still use your motorcycle then?

Those are among the questions we’ll be answering in the article. Read on to learn more about the laws regarding children on a motorcycle and other related topics.

Can Children Ride as Passengers on Motorcycles?

The state of California allows motorcycle drivers to bring their children along with them. Unsurprisingly though, there are still limitations in place. The limitations do not necessarily pertain to age.

Instead, what the state laws consider is the height of your child.

According to the California Motorcycle Handbook, “The motorcycle should be equipped with passenger footrests, and the child’s feet must be able to reach them.”

To get from the back of the motorcycle to the passenger footrests, your child must be about 4 feet 8 inches tall or close to that. If you’re still looking for a more solid number regarding age, this handy chart from the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center can offer some guidance.

Per the chart, your child may be tall enough to ride as a motorcycle passenger by the time they hit ten years old. That’s obviously assuming that your child grows fast. Often, though, children will be tall enough to ride on a motorcycle when they are twelve to fourteen years old.

kid putting on a helmet

How to Gear Up Your Child for Riding on a Motorcycle

It goes without saying that you must purchase numerous pieces of protective equipment for your child before you take them along for a motorcycle ride. No matter how skilled you are as a driver or how careful you are on the road, accidents can still happen. You need to be certain that your child is fully protected before you set forth on your motorcycle.

Let’s talk about the pieces of safety gear you need to purchase for your young motorcycle passenger in this section.

The Helmet

First, you must get a motorcycle helmet for your kid. You cannot pick out any old helmet you have lying around either.

According to the California Department of Motor Vehicles, the motorcycle helmet must be compliant with the standards set by the United States Department of Transportation. To be more specific, you’re looking for a helmet with certification provided by the manufacturer indicating that it’s compliant with the United States Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) 218.

You can tell if the helmet complies with the standards if the manufacturer-applied Department of Transportation lettering is on the back. If the Department of Transportation lettering is on a stick-on label, you may want to reconsider your purchase.

Wearing a motorcycle helmet that complies with the Department of Transportation’s standards is a must because they are safer.

The California Department of Motor Vehicles notes that most motorcycle riders are moving at 30 mph when collisions take place. At that speed, a compliant helmet can reduce the severity of a head injury by 50 percent. Those same helmets are also known for reducing the occurrence of head injuries stemming from those same accidents at the same rate.

The size of the motorcycle helmet is also hugely important. It should fit snugly over your child’s head.

Also, check for any damage to the motorcycle helmet you’re giving your child. Don’t use it if you find any significant damage.

They recommend full-face helmets for children. The addition of the lock-in visor makes those helmets safer to wear.

Parents can customize the motorcycle helmet using decals and stick-on items if their child wants it. You can introduce those additions as long as the protective capabilities of the motorcycle helmet are not compromised.

The Articles of Clothing

Clothing is also an important consideration when preparing your young motorcycle passenger.

Start with a new jacket. Make sure that the one you’re getting is sturdy and provides protection in the event of a collision. Jackets that come loaded with body armor features are preferred, but leather jackets are also good.

You should look for jackets that are either reflective or can be easily seen due to their bright colors.

When choosing pants for your kid to wear as he/she rides on your bike, look for denim jeans. They are better suited to hold up against the road in the event of a spill.

Picking out the right footwear is also important. Avoid sandals and other types of footwear that fall off easily or expose too much skin. Also, make sure to choose shoes with laces that don’t hang out too far. They could get tangled in the motorcycle and cause problems.

Giving your child protective gloves is another good idea. We recommend leather gloves, although items made from similarly sturdy materials will work as well.

Should You Use a Safety Harness?

While shopping for your child’s safety gear, you may see some recommendations for safety harnesses that can be used by motorcycle passengers. Those harnesses often wrap over your child’s back and over your chest.

The idea behind using a harness is that it should allow your child to grab on to you better. Even if they accidentally let go, the harness should ensure that they will stay on the motorcycle.

So, should you purchase a safety harness for your own child? While there’s relatively no harm in using a safety harness if your child is already comfortably big enough to be your motorcycle passenger, you may want to reconsider if that’s not the case.

If you’re counting on the harness to keep your child in place because he/she is still having a tough time holding on to you, it may be best to skip the trip for now. Wait until they can hold on to you with no problem before bringing them along for your rides.

The role of the safety harness is to secure your child in place further. It should not be relied upon as the piece of equipment that allows your child to hang on.

How to Keep Your Child Safe while on the Motorcycle

Your child is now properly geared up for their first motorcycle ride. Is it now time for him/her to hop on? Well, you may want to pump the brakes on that a little bit.

He/she may now be head to toe in equipment, but your child may still be lacking the know-how needed to be a safe motorcycle passenger. For this section, we’ll highlight some of the most important motorcycle riding tips for you and your child.

Put Your Child in the Correct Riding Position

It’s time for you to make an important decision.

Should you have your child sit in front of you or behind you?

Instinctively, you may think that having your child in front of you is the safer choice. You can keep an eye on them, and it will be easier to keep them from doing something dangerous.

However, there are also risks you’re taking on if you’re putting your child in front of you. For one, they could block your view. They may also get in the way when you’re trying to reach for the controls of your motorcycle.

You can also argue that kids are more likely to fall off while positioned at the front because they have less sitting space. They may move around more to get comfortable and accidentally fall in the process.

Keeping them behind you where they can hold on to you better is the way to go. Being at the back also saves them from potentially getting injured if you need to slam on the brakes.

If you’re not comfortable with them being behind you, feel free to use the safety harness we talked about earlier.

Perform a Last-Minute Check before Allowing Your Child to Sit on the Motorcycle

Keeping a list of items to check before riding a motorcycle is a smart precautionary measure to take for both you and your child.

Check the helmet first and see that your kid is wearing it properly. Don’t forget to fasten the straps that keep it in place.

Inspect the rest of their gear too. See to it that the jacket is closed, the shoes are tied correctly, and secure any other accessories on your child’s body.

Talk to Your Child about How to Position Their Body

Now that your child is on the motorcycle, talk to him/her about proper body placement.

Begin with discussing how he/she should grab on to you. Remind your child to always keep a firm hold over your waist or hips. Discourage them from grabbing your arms because that can cause you to lose control of the motorcycle.

As for their lower body, their feet should always remain secure inside the footrests. Tell your child to keep their feet in there even if you have stopped due to traffic. If they take their feet out of the footrests, they could have a tough time staying on the motorcycle.

You should also tell your child to keep their legs away from the moving parts of your two-wheeler. That should be no trouble for them if they’re tall enough.

Instruct your child to follow your movements. Doing so will prevent the weight distribution from getting imbalanced and possibly leading to the motorcycle wobbling.

Try to minimize talking when you’re riding with your child. The talking could distract you from the road ahead. As much as possible, you should only talk when you’re warning your child that you’re about to start the bike from a stop or if you’re going to make a big turn.

Lastly, teach your child the importance of staying still on the motorcycle. We know how rambunctious kids can get, but that is asking for trouble when the two of you are riding. Remind them to keep their hands in the right position and sit still.

How to Drive Your Motorcycle if Your Child Is the Passenger

Thus far, we’ve focused on the precautionary measures for your child, but you cannot forget about the person who will be driving the motorcycle. Following all the safety measures for your child won’t do much if you’re the one who’s being careless.

To stay safe, always perform a thorough check of your motorcycle before heading out. You should also look up the weather reports in your area and see if the driving conditions may be affected soon.

Practicing defensive driving is also highly recommended when you’re riding with your child. Avoid getting too close to other vehicles and weaving in and out of traffic is an absolute no-no. Be consistent with your driving speed, so your child can adjust to it.

Take stock of your current condition before you bring your child along for your trip. If you’re feeling under the weather, stay home, and leave the riding for another day.

Driving when you’re stressed out or sleepy is extremely dangerous when you’re alone. Doing so when you have a child with you is inexcusable negligence.

One more thing, don’t ride with your child if you’re still new to motorcycles. Driving a motorcycle alone and with a passenger are different experiences.

Wait until you’ve gotten the hang of riding a motorcycle solo first. After that, try to ride with adult passengers to get a better feel for how it goes. Only when you’ve done those things should you consider riding together with your child.

Hopefully, your motorcycle ride with your kid is safe and uneventful. If things take a turn for the worse, remember that you can turn to us at the Quirk Law Group for assistance. Get in touch with us today and let us help you navigate your current situation.

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