Colorado has no minimum age for passengers on motorcycles. However, a number of laws and regulations are in place which can help to protect young riders. If you plan to ride with a child, you should know those laws and understand your responsibilities as a motorcyclist as well as your rights if you are involved in a motorcycle accident.
Mandatory Equipment and Gear for Carrying Passengers
First, you should know that any passenger on your motorcycle must sit behind you, or if your motorcycle has one, in the sidecar. Also, your bike must be equipped with a passenger seat and foot rests or pegs, which a passenger must use at all times when riding. So, if a child is too small to reach the rests or pegs, the child is probably too young to ride.
Second, Colorado law requires all riders and passengers under the age of 18 to wear DOT-approved helmets. Generally, a child under the age of about 7 or 8 will be too small to find a suitable, approved helmet. So, as a practical matter, a child under that age will likely be too young to ride as a passenger.
Third, if a child is too young to follow basic instructions such as leaning with turns or holding on to a rider, then that child will probably not be safe as a passenger.
Finally, all riders and passengers must wear approved eye protection, including child passengers. The eye protection can be glasses or goggles. However, just having a windshield on the motorcycle is not enough to meet the legal requirement.
So, while Colorado does not set a specific age or height limit for child passengers, a number of practical considerations could technically make it unlawful and unsafe for small children to ride along.
What Other Gear Should Riders and Passengers Have?
If you ride a motorcycle and plan to let children ride as passengers, then you should probably take additional precautions. Even if you are just taking short trips close to home, it is important to prepare for the worst. For instance, you and your child passenger should consider wearing the following safety gear even if Colorado law does not require it:
- A sturdy jacket such as one made of leather or a comparable synthetic material that won’t melt or easily burn with friction
- Bright-colored or reflective materials that are visible to the rear and sides of the motorcycle, whether on your person or on the bike
- Boots or other sturdy footwear (never wear flip flops, open-toed shoes or similar footwear that increases your risk of injuries to your feet and toes)
- Sturdy gloves made of leather or a comparable synthetic material.
This gear should help to keep you and your child passenger safe in case your ride does not turn out as planned.
Should You Engage in ‘Lane Splitting’ with a Child as Your Passenger?
One riding technique that many riders use today is “lane splitting,” or passing or overtaking another motor vehicle that is in the same lane. A lot of seasoned riders may tell you that, in heavy traffic, they find that it is safer to split lanes and avoid getting “sandwiched” between cars. In 2016, the Colorado legislature actually considered a bill – HB 16-1205 – that would have allowed lane splitting in limited circumstances. However, it never passed. So, today, lane splitting remains illegal in Colorado.
With that said, you are still allowed to share a lane with another motorcycle in Colorado. If you are carrying a child as a passenger, you may want to consider doing this as many riders believe it is a safe way to travel – especially in heavy traffic.
For instance, it is much less likely that another driver will fail to see you or rear-end you in traffic if you are riding side-by-side with another motorcycle. Two sets of headlights, two sets of tail lights and two sets of brake lights will all make you appear more like a traditional car from a distance, and it will reduce the chances of a distracted driver hitting you.
What Should You Do About Distracted or Inattentive Drivers?
Despite all of your best efforts and safety precautions, a lot of motor vehicle drivers in Colorado simply do not know how to share the road safely with motorcyclists or respect their rights. Inattentive and distracted motorists frequently ignore motorcyclists and treat them like bicyclists or pedestrians. For instance, they:
- Pass motorcyclists in the same lane
- Buzz by motorcycles at close distances
- Tailgate them at high speeds.
At intersections, drivers may not look for motorcycles, or they may violate their right-of-way – even when they are looking straight at the motorcycle. This is often called “inattentional blindness,” or failing to see something even though it is directly in front of you and in plain sight. As a result, some motorists will make a left turn directly in front of an oncoming motorcyclist.
If you or a child passenger suffer serious injuries due to a reckless or careless driver in Colorado, you have rights. You can seek full and fair compensation for your medical bills, lost income, pain and suffering, emotional distress and more.
As you move forward after an accident, it is important to get help from an experienced personal injury attorney who understands motorcycle accidents and the unique factual and legal issues that these cases present. The attorney can assess the fair value of your motorcycle accident claim and keep you from being taken advantage of by an insurance company.
Our Colorado Motorcycle Accident Attorneys Can Help You Today
The Sawaya Law Firm has protected the rights of Colorado motorcycle accident victims of all ages for more than 35 years. We know how to identify and overcome the issues that these cases present and how to aggressively pursue the compensation that our clients deserve. If you or your child passenger suffered injuries in a motorcycle crash that another driver caused, we want to hear your story. Call or reach us online today to schedule a free consultation through our offices in Denver, Greeley or Colorado Springs.