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It was a common thing years ago: Mom or dad would take their young child on a motorcycle ride around the neighborhood or to the shops, their giggling progeny gripping a set of mini apes while straddling the tank. While it’s a heap of fun for parent and child, there are some concerns. So, is it legal to ride a motorcycle with a young passenger? A baby even?

Depending on your state, a motorcycle ride with a very young passenger could be illegal

There is no federal law that prohibits a young passenger from a motorcycle ride. However, before you saddle up a BabyBjörn and hit the road on your Harley-Davidson with your tot, you should know a few things. 

For starters, most states don’t have a minimum age for motorcycle passengers. Instead, many states have laws surrounding how tall your child is. For instance, the state of Georgia puts the minimum passenger height at around four foot nine inches (about 57 inches). In other cases, like in South Carolina, motorcycle passengers under one year old must be in an NHTSA-approved safety seat. In California, passengers have to be tall enough to reach the rear pegs. Of course, that means passenger pegs are mandatory for two-up riding in the state. 

An entire family rides a motorcycle in Thailand.
Entire families riding on a motorcycle is commonplace in countries like Thailand | Neil Bussey via iStock

What’s more, some states, like California, New York, Nevada, and Alabama, require all riders to wear a helmet, per the IIHS. As such, passengers, regardless of age, have to wear a properly-fitting helmet. Of course, that’s for the best. NHTSA safety studies found that riders are up to 42% more likely to die in a crash than riders with properly-fitting helmets.

However, some states, like Kentucky, will allow babies to ride in a sidecar. Of course, you can’t simply set your bundle of joy down in a seatbelt-less sidecar and call it day. No, you’ll likely require a properly-anchored NHTSA-certified child safety seat and a motorcycle helmet for your wee passenger.

It’s just not a good idea, folks. Sure, we were lucky not to have a spill when we rode on tanks in our formative years. However, considering motorcycles can slip out from under you on gravel, slick surfaces, or even cold tires, it’s a lot of risk for your child. And that’s not factoring in the actions of increasingly distracted motorists. We accept the risk for our own life and limbs. Enough said.