Do Minors and Motorcycles Mix?

From the perspective of the operator, riding motorcycles is part exhilaration and part trepidation. All of the amazing things that go along with being care-free are perpetually in the shadow of what can happen in the blink of an eye when other drivers fail to share the road. In 2014, almost 4,600 motorcyclists were killed in traffic crashes and 88,000 were injured. Those statistics aren’t enough to dissuade most motorcyclists from riding, whether for necessity or for pleasure. When you love your bike that much, you want to share it, and children are naturally curious — but how young is too young? The law varies from state to state on this issue, but the majority have no age restrictions for passengers. That is true here in Kentucky and all seven of its bordering states. Kentucky law requires only that passengers under age 21 wear a helmet and that there are passenger seats and footrests on the bike. Discussions are ongoing as to whether age rather than height, weight, or some other factor is really the best way to determine whether a passenger will be safe. For minor passengers, helmets should meet DOT (Department of Transportation) standards and should fit properly. A helmet that is too small can be uncomfortable or even painful. A helmet that is too big can come off in mid-crash, so be sure to avoid adult-sized helmets. Full-coverage helmets that have a section over the mouth with an eye port covered by the face shield are preferable. If there is no face shield, glasses or goggles should be worn. The chinbar should be fastened snugly, and children should understand that keeping the helmet securely fastened is a condition of riding. While allowing children to ride may not be illegal, there are many precautions that motorcyclists should take with young passengers. Consider:

  • Requiring that they wear protective clothing, including gloves and long pants.
  • Walking them completely around the bike and showing them where not to touch (exhaust, wheels, fenders, etc.).
  • Explaining how to mount, dismount, and sit on the bike.
  • Explaining to older children how to “ride their position” – how/when to lean, how to communicate problems, and what to do when the rider corners, brakes, and stops.
  • Showing how and where to hold on (there are even special belts and harnesses available to help younger children). Be sensitive to the fact that kids may fall asleep on longer rides and that holding on for an extended time can be difficult for short arms.
  • Outfitting your motorcycle with a backrest.
Child passengers should never sit in front of the driver because they can be ejected over the handlebars if the motorcycle has to stop suddenly or rear-ends a vehicle. They can also interfere with the driver’s ability to control the bike. Beware of gusts from passing vehicles, especially semis, which can have a bigger effect on children than adults. Motorcycle users also share responsibility with other drivers to follow the rules of the road. At a minimum, don’t weave in and out of traffic, don’t operate your bike after drinking alcohol, don’t speed, and don’t tailgate. If you have any questions about this topic, have been injured in a motorcycle accident, or have lost a loved one in a KY motorcycle crash, trust your case to the attorneys at the Johnson Law Firm. Founded and overseen by a lawyer who rides (his favorite bike is his Harley Davidson CVO Ultra Classic), the Pikeville, KY-based Johnson Law Firm has represented motorcyclists who have been injured in a wide variety of situations. We have over 15 years of experience helping people, and we can help you. Contact us by calling 606-437-4488 or filling out our online form.

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