Carrying a passenger on a motorcycle requires a degree of skill on the part of both the rider and the passenger. Since the motorcycle handles differently with a passenger on board, it is recommended that a motorcyclist have considerable experience as a solo rider. Even an experienced motorcyclist should not carry a passenger on a newly purchased motorcycle until he or she is completely familiar with the handling characteristics of the new machine.
A responsible motorcyclist will make certain that the passenger is wearing all recommended and required protective gear. Maryland law requires that a motorcycle must be designed and properly equipped to carry a passenger. This includes separate seat and foot pegs or floorboards for the passenger. The passenger may not ride in front of the operator. Additionally, the operator should check the Owner's Manual and adjust the suspension and tire pressures to the recommended settings for passengers.
One key to successful riding with a passenger is for the operator to have consistent guidelines for the passenger to follow. For example, the operator should be seated and have the motorcycle running before the passenger gets on. Once a signal is given, the passenger should hold onto the operator's shoulder and mount the motorcycle. Their feet should remain on the foot pegs until the rider dismounts at the end of the trip and upon the signal of the operator. For stability, the passenger should keep his or her hands on the operator's waist or a part of the motorcycle intended as a handhold. The passenger should anticipate starts or stops. This helps to avoid the hitting of helmets. The passenger should avoid any sudden moves or weight shifts, especially at low speeds. While riding, the passenger should look over the operator's shoulder in the direction of the turn.
Communication between the passenger and operator is critical. While intercoms offer the best means for the operator and passenger to communicate, a series of prearranged hand signals also have merit. Motorcycle engines, wind and traffic noise makes it very difficult for the operator and passenger to communicate by voice.
Motorcycling is not without risk, and many parents do not want to expose a child to that risk. On the other hand, many parents are willing to reduce risk by avoiding potentially hazardous situations such as, riding in heavy traffic, during the nighttime or inclement weather when riding with their child.
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.