Can my minor child ride my motorcycle as a passenger?


As illustrated in the above YouTube video, true lovers of motorcycles, want to pass this love on to their children.  (Incidentally, there was significant backlash from the above video.)

Reader of this blog should note that this blog post is specific to California only. Laws regarding minors and motorcycles are unique to each state so please consult with experts outside of California for information pertinent to your state.

What does California say about minors on a motorcycle? A quick answer is that there is no specific age specified in the California Vehicle Code as to when a minor can begin riding as a passenger. Does that mean then that a minor of any age can ride as a passenger and it will be considered legal by all California courts or police officers? Not necessarily.

However, while no age is specified in the California Vehicle Code, a quick look at California Vehicle Code §27800 will break down the legality of a minor being a passenger on the motorcycle.

Basically, in regards to carrying passengers (again there is no age specified) the law states that the passenger of all ages must: 1) have ‘a seat securely fastened to the machine at the rear of the driver and (be) provided with footrests.’ The law continues to state that 2) ‘Every passenger…shall keep his feet on the footrests while such vehicle is in motion.’

In regards to minors, the question as to the legality will be ‘Was the minor in a seat that meets California safety laws? Was the minor compliant with safety belt laws?’ And lastly, ‘Was the child of a height that allows them to keep their feet on the footrests?’ Some motorcyclists have had footrests moved to fit the height of their child or have purchased a seat for children that has footrests built into it.


Another law that will have a bearing on how a judge or police officer determines the legality of a minor on a motorcycle is California Vehicle Code §27802 otherwise known as California ‘helmet laws.’ A minor must be using a helmet that meets the requirements imposed by ‘by Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 218 (49 C.F.R. Sec. 571.218) and may include compliance with that federal standard by incorporation of its requirements by reference.’ One of the issues that a police officer or judge may have issue with and to some degree is open to conjecture on how they would decide – especially in a circumstance where a child is injured in a collision – is “Did the helmet properly fit the child?” Finding helmets that properly fit a child can be difficult but clearly is worth the time and money.

It should be noted that California is a comparative fault state.  This means that if a minor passenger is injured in a collision, while the person who struck the motorcycle may have primary liability, a judge (or jury) may determine after examining the evidence, to apportion fault among all parties involved, including perhaps the driver of the motorcycle who they may determine did not have the minor properly helmeted, fastened, etc.

If you are a motorcyclist and either you or your minor child was injured in a collision, please contact our office with any questions. The Edward A Smith Law Offices offers free consultations. We can be contacted at (916) 921-6400 to schedule an appointment.


Photo Attribution: By “S de Santi” (originally posted to Flickr as Iceman´s helmet) [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

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