Can you put a baby on a Ducati?
March 31, 2008 1:10 PM   Subscribe

Are there age restrictions for passengers on motorcycles in California?

I'm having a hard time believing that there are no restrictions on the age of passengers allowed on motorcycles, but this site seems to say it's true.

So we have to keep our children in car seats when in automobiles until they're six/60 lbs but it's totally fine to strap them as infants to a motorcycle? Am I missing something? (FWIW, I have no intention of putting a baby on a motorcycle).
posted by otherwordlyglow to Law & Government (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Well, to a certain extent, this is mitigated by the helmet law that's been in effect since 1992. Passengers are required to wear a DOT approved motorcycle helmet that is sized correctly. Until a child's head is big enough to wear an on-road helmet safely, they can't ride pillion legally.

Many of the youth-sized helmets that are sold as snowmobile or off-road helmets do not meet DOT standards (or, at least, they're not certified for on-road use). These are usually aimed at school-aged kids riding minibikes at low-ish speeds in the dirt, not preschoolers in leather. Finding an on-road helmet for a child under (at least) 6 years/50 pounds has got to be very challenging, if not impossible -- and that would make a more specific law unnecessary.
posted by toxic at 2:44 PM on March 31, 2008

So we have to keep our children in car seats when in automobiles until they're six/60 lbs but it's totally fine to strap them as infants to a motorcycle? Am I missing something?

You are missing that there are millions and millions of children being carried around in cars, making even marginal safety improvements worthwhile, but very, very few children (and even fewer babies) riding around on the backs of motorcycles. The numbers aren't big enough to justify getting hysterical and forbidding it.

That said, I've never seen babies on motorcycles in the US, although it is common in some countries. Almost every baby I have spent time with would love the movement and noise of a motorcycle ride, though -- here is a page with photos of a very happy baby in a sidecar. Here is a photo of an infant in a sidecar in the middle of a round-the-world trip (the link to the full trip report seems to be broken, unfortunately):

While we were touring around Laos I discovered I was pregnant. Poor Chris nearly fell off his bike with the shock. However we decided to be bloody minded about it and carry on.

We travelled down through Malaysia, Indonesia and the middle of Australia finally arriving in Tasmania a month before the big date. There I gave birth to a beautiful little boy in April 2003 whom we have named Lucas. Having spent his entire foetushood on a Triumph the noise and vibration of the engine never seemed to bother him once he was out in the big wide world so we bought a sidecar and fitted it to Chris's Bonneville with the intention of carrying on with our RTW trip. Since Christmas we have been back touring.

Lucas has taken to his nomadic life and loves all the attention he gets when we stop somewhere.

posted by Forktine at 2:51 PM on March 31, 2008

Response by poster: I think the helmet law thing is a good point and perhaps explains it. Though I do wonder how well even a 6-year old can hang on to a driver.

I wasn't intending to come off as "hysterical" and I totally recognize that it's common for infants to be transported by motorcycle in many other countries. I'm just amazed that no one has insisted on an age restriction here in California, given the very specific and detailed regs on how you transport children by car here. I think some states might actually have passenger restrictions.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 2:59 PM on March 31, 2008

The page you link to notes that passengers are required to be provided with footrests. I imagine the details of the law would say something about the positioning of those footrests. This gives a de facto restriction on the length of the pillion's legs and, as toxic points out, their head size. If your pillion has adult length legs (or close to it) and an adult size head, why should it matter when they were born?
posted by GeckoDundee at 5:07 PM on March 31, 2008

California requires a DOT approved helmet for all riders and I can't find a DOT approved helmet small enough for a infant, although I can find them for 5-6year olds.

This site says

"What's the youngest passenger I can carry?
I didn't find a specific age requirement, but by virtue of the fact that every passenger on a motorcycle must keep his or her feet on the footrests indicates that a child would at least require legs long enough to reach the pegs (Section 27800).
What if an owner has raised the footpegs so a child can reach them? Well, there's always Section 21712 (b) which states that "No person shall ride on any vehicle or upon any portion thereof not designed or intended for the use of passengers." I suppose you can mount footpegs just about anywhere, but it can be argued that wherever you put them, its new location wasn't designed for the use of passengers. Could be the equivalent of sewing your own set of seatbelts in your car."

posted by M Edward at 7:56 PM on March 31, 2008

"If your pillion has adult length legs (or close to it) and an adult size head, why should it matter when they were born?"

because motorcycles are inherently far more dangerous than cars. it's one thing for an adult to put themselves at risk for flying through the air. it's an entirely different matter to put a minor at that risk. it would seem logical that there would be some sort of age-related congruency between motocycle laws and seatbelt laws.
posted by wayward vagabond at 1:17 AM on April 1, 2008

You can take a small child on a bicycle in city traffic (on a kid seat or in a trailer) and at city speeds, that's about as safe/dangerous as a motorcycle.
posted by zippy at 1:39 AM on April 1, 2008

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