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.

Read 30 comments

  1. Avatar

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    I don’t know why every one is complaining and asking for more laws restricting our freedom. There is a basic laws in place for children riding on motorcycles. #1 child can not ride in front of the operator. #2 child must wear DOT approved helmet that fits there head. #3 The child must be able to reach the foot pegs. I bet that 99% of the people on here crying about more laws to protect children from motorcycles are the same idiots that are cutting off motorcycles and other rivers because they are texting or talking on the phone.

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    Not every one has passed the I’m not stupid test. There have to be laws to protect children from people who think they know it all. Last summer my granddaughter was killed in an accident while riding as a passenger with some one who apparently didn’t value her life like we did. He was a long time rider , member of one of the local chapters of Harley riders, and boyfriend to her other grandmother. They put an adult helmet on her and proceeded down the interstate on 4th of july weekend to Galveston, Texas. With out permission to have her even on the bike I might add. She was 7 years old. The light of our life. There was an accident and the adult helmet came off, her skull was fractured, and she was gone. In an instant our life changed forever. is there anyone who would join us and help up to make a change for children.

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    i think people over react im a father of 4 and i ride daily i put my 7 year old on she has proper helmet and cloths but its not right for any of yall to say whats safe or not just becouse ur baleifs says kids dont belong dont mean it is right i got 2 yr old and im gonna find a safe and leagal way for him to ride i want him to start early and he will have a bike of his own at 5 look at interweb there are kids 3 and 4 tht ride bythem self on small bikes if they are capable. of tht they can ride with dad or momkid are smarter and more capable then anyone gives credit and tht is wat pisses me off my 7yr old can do anything i can i dont treat them like babys they still get to be kids they just have comon sense. and it is people like yalls outlook on life tht is makein the wourl have no comon sence if a kid is old enough to aay daddy i wnt to go then let them ride but be safe strap child safty belt to you and ur kid and let them enjoy life

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    Well I’ve got you all beat on this one! I have 2 Grandaughters who are 5 & 7 my daughter and the father are not together. The Father 24 and his Mother are taking long trips with the girls on the back of their motorcycles example just last night from Phoenix to Flagstaff left at 7 pm arrived at 930 anyone that’s traveled this route knows the dangers the girls fall asleep in a car within 30 minutes I am beside myself there is nothing we can do? What about child endangerment? ?? The last trip from Flagstaff to St Johns they bungee corded them to the bike because the kept falling asleep. It’s one thing to take a ride but long trips when you know they are going to fall asleep infuriates me to no end. The Local authorities say there’s nothing they can do? It’s completely a lack of safety for my Grandchildren! There has to be something I can do someone to talk to please any information or direction will help!

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    Its pisses me off to that there are age restrictions for everything except children riding on motorcycles. How can you love a child and risk putting them in danager. My 7 yr old grandson weighs 43 pounds. I can’t image him surviving a crash. Of course his father says it want happen.

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    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,

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      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.

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        I have been riding since 70s greww up in a state required helmets most days i have a helmet on even thou i have $10.000 extra insurence to not wear one for me its just part of riding kinda like when we kick them cickles to lifee i need to know what age a child can wear a DOT APPROVED HALF HELMET

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      I totally agree with you Tom. My idiot son would put his 4 year old on his bike and the little boy would have to have his arms behind him holding onto the sissy bar for dear life. Every time the motorcycle started up the child looked petrified… Nothing I said made any difference to my son. I was just accused of interfering!!!!! A relative was just killed when a car cut him off! A friend stopped his bike for a yellow light and the truck behind him floored it to make it through before it turned red! A young man we know was drinking, speeding, and hit the guardrail. Sheared off his arm and leg!
      If children need a car seat to ride in a car, why in God’s name would they be allowed on the back of a motorcycle???

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      I was also shocked to find out how little protection the laws in CA protect our child’s safety regarding passenger. No age limits. Minimum seating requirements. We need legislation to protect children from parents unknowingly putting children in harms way. Maybe requiring a minimum o one million dollars for each rider health and death benefits?

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    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

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      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.

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      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!!!!!!!

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      how is it not okay to make your own personal choices with your family. its just as dangeroud to put a 5 year old in a car, although you are safer on a motorcycle as there are way less accident percentage, and more aware of your surroudings. its people like you, who have never rode or has 0 expersince on a motorized vechile…even a car..u prob text….and drive agrresive….and feel over cofident. those are the people trying to make and pass laws that doesnt even pertain to them. bahhhh im not even going to go on……

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    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.

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      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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        Thankyou, any vespa above 150 cc is considered a motorcycle they make electric ones it’s much cheaper and many of them come with a back for a passenger with a little trunk I’ve been looking for laws governing the age restrictions because it is considered a motorcycle however I’ve been on the back of one ever since I can remember I was always enjoy safe and enjoyed it I cant handle a full on motorcycle but the option of a nice vespa seams more economical for me considering the cost of gas insurance and the vehicle braking down every week and making miss work I don’t see a problem with having a child on the back with proper safety precautions and considerations but due to the nut cases we are surrounded by I must be very careful for god’s sake I had cps called on me because it’s against my daughters Wright’s to make her brush her hair or teeth then to the extent of going to school so tuns of nut cases very little sanity and yelling at my mother no idea how that can even be a case

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        This is the dumbest thing Ive ever read! Its one thing if adults want to enter a situation knowing the dangers and risks, BUT, and here it is, so read it slowly…Children do not have the capacity to understand the dangers and risks they would be entering!!! The whole “stairs” comparison,,,,,just stupid!!!! Therefore; responsible adults and lawmakers need to protect all children and most of all the ones that are under the supervision of such “retards”!!

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