Ask a Trooper: Are children legal motorcycle passengers?

Published 9:46 pm Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Ask a Trooper by Troy Christianson

Troy Christianson


Question: Yesterday, I saw a guy go by my house on a motorcycle. He had his daughter sitting in front of him while he operated the motorcycle. This girl could not have been more than 7 years old. What is the age for a child to legally ride as a passenger in Minnesota? A second question, is it legal for that child to sit in front of the actual operator?

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Answer: A passenger who is unable to place both feet on the foot pegs or is riding in front of the operator is an extremely dangerous situation and against the law. 

For safe motorcycle operation with passengers:

• A motorcyclist may only ride on a permanent seat. Passengers may ride on a passenger seat or in a sidecar.

• Passengers under the age of 18 must wear a DOT-approved helmet.

• Passengers must be able to reach both footrests while seated in the passenger seat.

• Operators and passengers must face forward with one leg on each side of the motorcycle.

• The operator of a motorcycle is prohibited from carrying passengers in a number in excess of the designed capacity of the motorcycle or sidecar attached to it.

Share the road. Riders and motorists need to work together to share the road and make safe decisions to prevent fatalities.


• Wear protective gear, including a DOT-approved helmet. Wearing brightly-colored gear helps you stay visible to other drivers, and it’s all that separates you from the road and other vehicles in case of a crash.

• Be attentive at all times and obey all traffic and equipment laws as a motorcycle offers little to no protection if involved in a crash.

• Ride sober.

• Do not carry anything that interferes with holding onto the handlebars.

• Splitting traffic is illegal. No one except on-duty police officers may ride between lanes of traffic or in the same lane with another vehicle. It is legal for two motorcyclists to ride side-by-side if both riders agree to it.

• Headphones and earphones are only allowed in one ear.

• Take a training course. Courses are available for beginner to expert riders now through September. They’re an opportunity to polish and learn life-saving maneuvers to keep you safe on the road.


• Always look twice for motorcyclists before entering a roadway or changing lanes. Motorcycles are smaller, so their speed and distance is difficult to judge.

• Give riders room to ride, pay attention and drive at safe speeds.

The summer months tend to be the time when there are a greater number of motorcycle fatalities. Speed is the most cited factor in Minnesota single-vehicle motorcycle crashes. Preliminary numbers as of Tuesday show 31 motorcyclists have died on Minnesota roads in 2018.

You can avoid a ticket — and a crash — if you simply buckle up, drive at safe speeds, pay attention and always drive sober.  Help us drive Minnesota toward zero deaths.

If you have any questions concerning traffic-related laws or issues in Minnesota, send your questions to Sgt. Troy Christianson, Minnesota State Patrol, at 2900 48th St. NW, Rochester, MN 55901-5848; or reach him at

Troy Christianson is a sergeant with the Minnesota State Patrol.