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Can kids ride on motorcycles?
It's a cool autumn Saturday morning, and the conditions are just right to go for a cruise on your motorcycle. Your nine-year-old daughter is asking if she can come with you. But you may be wondering: are kids legally allowed to be riding on the back of a motorcycle?
Understanding what is the legal age for a child to ride on the back of a motorcycle depends mainly on what state you live in, and generally how tall the child is, but it should also include whether you consider the overall conditions to be safe.
Five states have laws that set a minimum age to be a passenger on a motorcycle. In the states that regulate motorcycle passenger age limits, the minimum age for riding ranges from five to eight years old. Arkansas requires motorcycle passengers to be at least eight years old. The minimum age is seven in Hawaii, and in Louisiana, Texas and Washington, the set age is five years old. The other 46 states and territories have no restrictions on passenger age or size; however, it's best to use good judgment and follow the recommendations for safety equipment and safe driving when deciding if it's safe to be riding a motorcycle with a passenger, whether it's a child or an adult.
What age can you ride a motorcycle?
If you're wondering how old you need to be to ride a motorcycle, while some jurisdictions will issue motorcycle licenses as young as 14 years of age, most states issue learners permits to riders over the age of 16 and after you have taken a driving exam. However, most jurisdictions don't allow people with learner's permits to have a passenger of any age ride with them.
No matter what the age, safety gear is required
Unfortunately, in 2019, motorcyclists were 29 times more likely than passengers in cars to die in a crash per vehicle miles traveled. Head injuries are a real risk and can be an extremely unfortunate tragedy that can result from being involved in a motorcycle accident.
If you are taking your kid on a motorcycle, whatever the motorcycle passenger age limit, they need to wear the same safety gear as you do. The state law in Tennessee states that a motorcyclist must carry a passenger on a bike equipped with a rear seat designed for a second person unless the motorcycle has a sidecar. Any child riding as a passenger must also be tall enough for their feet to reach the footrests on a motorcycle. Any violation of this law is considered a class C misdemeanor.
The standard in most states is how tall the passenger is, not how old they are but are they tall enough to reach the footrests and be aware of the need to hang on to the driver. A motorcycle passenger must generally be four foot nine inches tall. A child passenger must also be mature enough to handle the responsibilities of being a passenger, wear a properly fitted helmet and other protective gear, and hold onto you or the passenger hand-holds.
Motorcycle helmets lower the risk of head injury by 69% and the risk of death by 50%. Children should wear a well-fitting helmet, long pants, closed-toe shoes, a thick coat and gloves to protect their hands. It's also a good idea to wear bright, visible clothing to be visible in traffic.
Conducting a safety check should be a regular step before heading out on any ride, but doing so to make sure your bike is in good condition before taking a child on a trip on your motorbike is crucial.
Getting ready to ride with a kid on a motorcycle
Some tips for motorcycle operators to keep in mind when riding with a child as a passenger include:
• The motorcycle must be designed to accommodate a passenger.
• Have the passenger mount after the motorcycle's stand is raised and the motorcycle is securely braced.
• A passenger will affect the handling characteristics of a motorcycle due to the extra weight and independent motion.
• The motorcycle's suspension and tire pressure may need adjustment.
• Care should be taken not to exceed the weight limitations specified in the owner's manual.
• Ensure passengers follow safety procedures.
• Complete personal protective gear is properly in use.
• The child holds operator's waist or hips, or motorcycle's passenger hand-holds.
• Keep feet on footrests at all times, including while stopped.
• Passenger keeps hands and feet away from hot or moving parts.
• Avoid turning around or making sudden moves that might affect operation.
• Allow more time for passing.
• Avoid extreme speeds.
• Be ready for a passenger "bump" with their helmet or whole body sliding forward during hard braking.
Taking a kid on a motorcycle ride could be the beginning of a life-long interest in riding for a young person, and taking some precautionary steps before heading out can make it an enjoyable and safe experience.