If you have decided to ride with a child as a passenger, you have the responsibility to follow the law and reduce all associated risk. The following are some items for your consideration:
- 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 a panic 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 may only ride on another seat firmly attached behind the seat of the operator and the operator of the motorcycle may not carry any person in a position that interferes with the operation or control of the motorcycle or the view of the operator.
- Always provide the child with a motorcycle helmet that meets DOT standards. Bicycle helmets are not suitable for motorcycling as covered in Maryland law. 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, above the ankle boots, a long sleeved shirt or jacket, full-fingered gloves and heavy-duty long pants.
- The child must be provided with approved eye protection as required by Maryland law. This eye protection must meet FDA standards.
- The motorcycle must be equipped with the necessary equipment for a passenger as required by Maryland law.
When is a child old enough to ride a motorcycle? Maryland does not have a law for the minimum age to be a passenger on a motorcycle. Common sense dictates the answer to this question. The child should be old enough to maintain body control and body support while on the motorcycle, be large enough to wear all of the required protective gear and be able to understand the basic concepts required when riding as a passenger. As with carrying an adult, the operator must immediately set the rules regarding mounting, dismounting and leaning.
One piece of equipment suggested in some magazine articles is a C.R.V. Riding Belt (Children's Recreation Vehicle Riding Belt). This belt enables small children to ride on the back of most recreational vehicles. While not sold as a safety device, it does allow the child to be attached to the operator through a system of straps. It may be especially useful if the child falls asleep or loses hold of the operator while riding.
Riding with a child as a passenger can be potentially hazardous. It is imperative that the motorcycle operator uses good judgment in all cases when making this critical decision. With the proper precautions and preparations riding with a child can be a very 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 or Training Specialist.