If you have decided to ride with a child as a passenger, you must follow the law and minimize risks. Please consider:
- Never carry a child in front of you. Not only will it interfere in the operation of the motorcycle; it is against the law. In the case of an emergency stop, the child has no means of restraint and may fall off or cause the operator to lose control of the motorcycle. Maryland law states that a passenger, regardless of age, may only ride on a seat firmly attached behind the seat of the operator. The operator of the motorcycle may not carry any person in a position that interferes with the operation of the motorcycle or the view of the operator.
- Always provide the child with a motorcycle helmet that meets USDOT standards. Maryland’s law does not recognize bicycle or other sport helmets as suitable for motorcycling. The helmet must fit properly and be securely fastened to the child's head. Many helmet manufacturers offer helmets for children.
- Always provide the child with proper, protective and highly visible clothing including, boots that are above the ankle, a long sleeved shirt or jacket, full-fingered gloves and heavy-duty long pants.
- The child must be provided with eye protection that meets FDA standards. This is also required by Maryland law.
- The motorcycle must have the necessary equipment for a passenger as required by Maryland law.
When is a child old enough to ride a motorcycle? Maryland does not specify the minimum age for a passenger on a motorcycle. Parents and guardians should carefully consider the risks for their child, based on their child’s age, size, physical ability and maturity:
- Is the child old enough to maintain body control and support while on the motorcycle?
- Do the child’s feet comfortably reach the passenger pegs or floorboards?
- Is the child large enough to wear all of the required protective gear, including a USDOT-compliant motorcycle helmet? Motorcycle helmets weigh as much as three pounds or more. The passenger must be able to hold his or her head steady with the additional weight of a helmet, especially during turns.
- Is the child able to understand the basic concepts required when riding as a passenger, such as mounting, dismounting and leaning?
- Is the child mature enough to respond appropriately to commands from the operator?
- Is the operator an experienced, licensed motorcyclist?
- Does the operator have experience carrying passengers?
A passenger on a motorcycle is often advised to hold on to the operator’s waist. For a child with a reduced reach this can be difficult. Sitting properly on the motorcycle with feet on the pegs/boards provides stability, but it is good to have something to hold on to for added security. All motorcycles are required to be equipped with a passenger hand hold. This could be a strap over the seat or a grab bar on each side of the passenger seat. There are devices available for the operator of a motorcycle which provide passengers with a hold onto the operator’s back. It is not recommended that a tandem-style harness be attached to the child passenger or the operator. If this type of attachment is necessary for the child to be stable on a motorcycle then the child is probably too small to be a passenger.
Riding with a child as a passenger can be potentially hazardous. It is imperative that the motorcycle operator use good judgment. With the proper precautions and preparations, riding with a child can be a enjoyable experience.
If you wish to find out more about carrying passengers, please feel free to call the Program Office and ask to speak with the Program Manager.