How Old Must You Be to Ride on the Back of a Motorcycle in Texas?

Motorcycle accidents can happen to even the most seasoned rider in Texas. Negligent and distracted motor vehicle drivers can fail to see motorcycles and cause devastating accidents. In a motorcycle accident, a child passenger is especially vulnerable to serious and fatal injuries. In Texas, the law states that a child must be at least five years old to ride on the back of a motorcycle. A motorcycle accident attorney in San Antonio can help if you or a loved one get into a collision.

What Is the Minimum Age for Motorcycle Passengers in Texas?

According to Texas Transportation Code Section 545.416(d), the operator of a motorcycle or moped may not carry another person unless the passenger is at least 5 years old. Carrying a child or infant that is under the age of 5 on a motorcycle or moped is punishable by a fine of $100 to $200. 

Even if the child is at least five years old, the motorcycle must be equipped to carry a passenger for riding with the child to be legal. The law states that an operator cannot carry another person on a motorcycle that is not designed to carry more than one person and does not have footrests and handholds for use by the passenger. 

A child passenger may only lawfully ride on a permanent and regular seat on a motorcycle or moped that is designed for two people. This seat may be behind the operator or to the side, as long as it is firmly attached. A child cannot ride in front of the operator, behind the operator in the same seat or in the operator’s lap.

Are There Any Exceptions to the Motorcycle Age Limit?

In an emergency, a motorcycle operator can carry a child under the age of five as a passenger on a motorcycle. If there is a medical emergency, for example, and a motorcycle is the only option for transporting a child to the hospital, the rider would not receive a ticket for carrying an underage passenger. It is also a defense to the minimum age requirement to ride for a law enforcement purpose. Finally, there is an exception for motorcycles with attached sidecars. Texas law does not prohibit carrying a person who is younger than five years of age if that person is seated in a sidecar attached to the motorcycle.

Child Passengers and Helmets

Texas law requires any motorcycle rider or passenger under the age of 21 to wear a federally approved helmet. The helmet or protective headgear must fulfill the American National Standards Institute’s safety standards. Texas Transportation Code Section 661.003 states that if a motorcycle operator or passenger fulfills the following requirements, he or she does not legally have to wear a helmet:

  • Is at least 21 years old, and
  • Has completed a motorcycle operator training and safety course, or
  • Is covered by a health insurance plan providing medical pay benefits for injuries incurred by a motorcycle accident.

Under this law, all child motorcycle passengers are legally required to wear helmets. Even if an adult over the age of 21 is legally permitted to ride without a helmet, wearing one is strongly recommended. Motorcycle helmets drastically decrease the risk of head injuries, skull fractures, facial injuries and traumatic brain injuries in an accident. Severe brain injuries are one of the top causes of motorcyclist deaths in accidents. Speak to a brain injury attorney in San Antonio if you suffered such an injury in a motorcycle crash.

Things to Consider When Taking a Child Passenger on a Motorcycle

Before taking a child over the age of five out on a two-person motorcycle, determine if the child is tall enough to reach the footrests. The child also needs to be able to firmly grasp the handholds. That way, the child can stay steady during sharp turns. If you have concerns about a child passenger staying on the bike, consider installing a safety harness. Purchase protective gear, clothing, a helmet that fits snugly on the child’s head and eyewear, as well. This can reduce the child’s risk of injuries in the event of a motorcycle accident.

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