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 be designed and properly equipped to carry a passenger. This includes a securely-fastened seat and foot pegs or floorboards for the passenger. The motorcycle should also have a strap across the seat for the passenger to hold, or grab bars on each side of the passenger seat. The passenger must never ride in front of the operator. The operator should also check the motorcycle’s owner's manual and adjust the suspension and tire pressure to the manufacturer’s recommended settings for passengers.
The operator and passenger should agree to follow specific guidelines:
- The operator should be seated, have the motorcycle raised off the side stand and have it running before the passenger gets on.
- The passenger should hold onto the operator's shoulder to mount the motorcycle.
- The passenger’s feet should remain on the foot pegs until the rider dismounts. The operator should then indicate when it is safe for the passenger to dismount.
- 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 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 a 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 can be used. The sound of the engine, wind and traffic noise makes it difficult for the operator and passenger to communicate vocally.
Motorcycling is not without risk, and many parents do not want to expose a child by carrying them as passengers. There are important issues to consider before riding with their child.
If you wish to find out more about carrying passengers, or learn about the Maryland Motorcycle Safety Program, please feel free to call the Program Office and ask to speak with the Program Manager.