Motorcycle Passenger Age Restrictions Needed to Protect Kids

A Washington Attorney General Opinion in 1984 determined that riding with a child as a passenger on a motorcycle under 5 years old was unsafe and therefore illegal.  This decision was made in part because child safety seats are required in cars and motorcycles do not have similar restraint options.

Until adequate child restraint devices for motorcycles are at some time developed, and then approved for use in this state by the State Commission on Equipment, it is, therefore, illegal for the parent or legal guardian of a child under five years of age to transport that child on his or her motorcycle, just as it would be illegal for them to transport their child in their automobile without an approved device.

Every state has a child safety restraint law for children riding in motor vehicles such as cars and trucks.  Almost all states (all save New Hampshire, Illinois, and Iowa) have safety helmets required for riders, including many states with motorcycle helmet laws only for youthful riders (under 18 or 21 for example).  Despite that, only two states have motorcycle passenger age restrictions, Washington and Hawaii (prohibits riders under 7 years old).

Although this issue effects only a small number of children, as many riders do not take young children as passengers or at least place them in sidecars, not all parents understand the significant risk of  harm to a child that a motorcycle accident presents.  Even the best rider knows that a driver who does not see them can quickly end their life.  A child who is not able to intelligently make the decision to ride or not should not be forced into such risky situations because of their parent’s beliefs.  See these discussions: one parent painted a bicycle helmet and considered it safe enough for his baby who rode in a sidecar, another mom allowed her son to ride regularly with his dad since he was 3 years old.

I have been riding motorcycles since I was 16 years old.  I always wear a helmet and would not allow anyone under 16 to ride as a passenger with me and will not take a passenger without a helmet.  These are personal preferences, but I firmly believe in protecting young children from harm because of their parents’ decisions.  The issue of motorcycle passenger age restrictions is ripe for statutory change.

More information on national motorcycle laws can be found in this National Motorcycle Law Chart.

12 thoughts on “Motorcycle Passenger Age Restrictions Needed to Protect Kids

  1. tom
    July 2, 2015 at 12:41 AM

    I am really pissed off to find out there is no laws to protect small children from stupid adults who would put a child in a dangerous and life threatening position for any reason.The arrogance and stupidity overwellms me.Why do we have lawmakers who don t take a stand? Motorcycle accidents are bad enough for adults not their toddler age children,

    1. Brian T K
      March 21, 2016 at 10:54 PM

      I am really pissed off that American citizens prefer to live in a nanny state than a free society. If you don’t like how I raise my child, too bad. It is not hurting you and enjoying a nice ride, in a motorcyle sidecar is not harmful to the child. It may be the last bit of freedom on the american roads.

  2. March 17, 2015 at 9:22 AM

    I am outraged and upset that there are no laws out there to prevent our small childrens from being able to ride on the back of a motorcycle. Why is there not a age limit? How is it ok for a 5 year old to ride on the back of a motorcycle how is that ok. Well its not with me because my ex hushand put my 5 year old son on the back of a motorcycle with my son holding on to his jacket and thats it. How could any parent allow this to happen. Its too dangrous . And we as parents need to take a stand together and say that there need to be

    1. Tracy
      April 21, 2015 at 2:01 PM

      I’m right there in your shoes. My 5 year old step son is being taken on the back of his mothers motorcycle with no way to hold on accept her jacket. Furthermore, he is melting shoes on hot exhaust pipes, wearing an adult sized half-helmit with no eye protection. My husband and I are scared beyond belief because it’s not a matter of “if” there’s an accident, it’s “when” there is an accident. I would like to start a campaign to have laws put into place. I understand that most cyclists do not take children, but we need to protect the one’s who’s parents are too stupid to see sense.

      1. steve
        August 2, 2015 at 7:11 PM

        Sounds like most of the people complaining are ex-wives. Bitter ?

        1. Anonymous
          May 30, 2016 at 9:50 PM

          Are you kidding me???!! If an adult chooses to ride knowing all the risks that is one thing but to have such disregard as to place a child in that position is stupid beyond belief!

      2. Anonymous
        October 25, 2015 at 10:11 PM

        Agreed. If there’s not something started already I want to start it! My son is 5 and his dad takes him on the back. I have tried DCF, law enforcement, they all say he has to be caught in the act and even then it’s up to the cop. Frustrating and terrifying!

    2. ellen eck
      November 4, 2015 at 6:21 PM

      I agree with everything you said. What can we do about this situation? How do we change the laws? My grandson’s father puts him on the back of his motorcycle and all the child holds on to is something on either side of his seat. So if he got something in his eye or a bug flew into his face and he let go to wipe it away he would not be holding on to anything at all !!!! What if another driver bunks into them from behind? What if they make a turn and my grandson becomes distracted and lets go ??? I am just sick about all this. How can these motorcycle laws be changed? What can we do as a group? Please help!!!!!!!

  3. January 14, 2013 at 1:02 PM

    Taking your child for a motorcycle ride is one of the things that we look forward to as an adult rider. At first, this seems like a great idea. However, without the proper protection and knowledge, both you and your child are at risk. By taking simple steps to ensure safety, you two will have a fun ride.

    1. HJ
      June 10, 2016 at 4:48 PM

      We should all put our children into a bubble until they are 20 or so.

    2. Steve
      August 4, 2016 at 6:46 PM

      All of you out there want to teach our kids. Try teaching your kids what you guys want and leave other parents to take care of their own. All I see what if and what if. What if you walk down the stairs and fall and break your head. Should I make a law that you can’t walk down the stairs. Retarded people grow up and let everyone take care of their kids the way they would know best. We don’t need bunch of clowns telling all of us what we should do.

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