May is Motorcycle Safety Month and National Youth Traffic Safety Month, so this topic couldn’t be more fitting. It sounds counter intuitive to allow teens and even children to ride motorcycles and motorized vehicles, but it is actually legal. But being legal and safe are too different things.
As an attorney who has helped far too many people injured in motorcycle crashes, I would advise parents to hold off on giving their kids rides on motorcycles. The statistics – especially with younger riders and supersport, or “crotchrocket” motorcycles – of serious injury show that there is no substitute for experience and the riding judgment that comes with it.
Regarding children and preteens riding motorized vehicles, I couldn’t find any accident statistics, but my concern is that the same issues of poor judgment and decision-making are just as likely to occur on a motorized vehicle as on a motorcycle.
Here are answers to some common questions I receive as an attorney on the laws in Michigan regarding minors riding motorcycles:
Q. Is there a specific age, or weight that children can legally ride as a passenger on a motorcycle?
A. There is no minimum age for a child to ride on a motorcycle, subject to one exception based on size rather than age:
MCL 257.658a states “A passenger shall not ride on a motorcycle unless his or her feet can rest on the assigned foot rests or pegs except…due to a permanent physical disability.”
Q. How old do you have to be to apply for a motorcycle endorsement?
A. To apply for a motorcycle endorsement, teens must be at least 16 years old, and:
- Possess a valid Level 2 or Level 3 Graduated Driver License.
- Successfully complete an approved motorcycle safety course. Visit the Michigan Department of State website at www.Michigan.gov/sos for more information and to locate the motorcycle safety course nearest you.
- Pass the written knowledge test administered at a Secretary of State office.
Q. What is the motorcycle helmet law for minors?
A. A person younger than 21 years old still must wear a helmet approved by the U.S. Department of Transportation when operating or riding on a motorcycle. The requirement that an individual younger than 19 years old must wear a helmet if operating a moped on a public roadway is unchanged.
Due to Michigan’s senseless motorcycle helmet repeal last year, riders who are at least 21 may ride without helmets — only if they carry additional insurance and have passed a motorcycle safety course, or have had their motorcycle endorsement for at least two years.