Riding a motorcycle can be a lot of fun and it’s a popular hobby across demographics. In fact, motorcycle ownership has increased in recent years, accounting for about 8% of households, and with particular increases in female and college-educated riders.
One group that’s hard to account for when talking about motorcycles, though, are children. They don’t own the bikes and they aren’t licensed to operate them, but many adults do ride with children as passengers, and that’s legal as long as they follow the rules. The bigger question that looms over this practice, though, is whether it’s safe for children to be motorcycle passengers.
Basic Road Rules
Whatever your choice of vehicle, following basic safety rules is a must. For example, if your teen wants to ride a moped, many areas only allow them to ride during daylight hours at first. Similarly, whether you drive a car or ride a motorcycle, you need to be properly licensed and insured. So, what are the rules for riding a motorcycle with children?
Though the specifics vary by jurisdiction, Virginia’s laws are similar to those elsewhere in the country. Child motorcycle passengers in Virginia must have an appropriate motorcycle helmet with eye protection and be able to reach the foot pegs or rests. There must also be a passenger seat for them. Several states have more specific laws, including age restrictions, so be sure to check your jurisdiction to ensure you’re in compliance with all state laws.
Obviously, it can be difficult to find a motorcycle helmet for young children, so that alone can be a guideline for whether a child is old enough to ride. Similarly, if a child is still expected to be in a booster seat in a regular vehicle, they likely shouldn’t be a motorcycle passenger.
Making Riding Safer
Even if your child has everything they need to ride and is tall enough to reach the foot rests, you shouldn’t immediately take off on a cross-country trip. Instead, spend time practicing motorcycle safety basics with your children. When riding, children should hold on to the driver’s waist or hips and keep their hands away from any engine components. You should also practice basic turns with young passengers; many need time to practice the correct way to lean when turning to stay balanced.
There is some special equipment you might consider investing in to make riding with your child safer and easier. For example, there are straps that fit over riding gear that make it easier for children to hold on during the ride. It’s also a good idea to add a backrest to the passenger seat on your bike, for added security.
Finally, and most importantly, when riding with children it’s important to practice in safe areas first and slowly escalate your rides. Practice having your child play passenger on your street or in an empty parking lot, don’t ride with children during storms or when visibility is poor, and avoid riding with children on the highway.
Children can enjoy riding motorcycles with their parents as a hobby, but it shouldn’t be their primary mode of transportation until they’re old enough to ride solo and they can make that decision themselves.