Responsibilities When Riding a Motorcycle With a Passenger

The only thing more enjoyable than the open road on your motorcycle is sharing the fun with a passenger. Whether it’s a spouse, partner, or just a good buddy, carrying another person on the back of your bike can turn an exhausting road trip into a fun adventure.

However, carrying a passenger also doubles the injury rate should an accident occur, and even the most skilled solo rider may not be ready to carry a passenger. You owe it to your passenger to ensure you obey all laws and that you have the skill and experience necessary to safely ride with him or her.

Legal Requirements for Passengers

In most states, including Missouri, passengers are only permitted on motorcycles that are designed to carry more than one person. The bike must have a permanent and regular passenger seat and footrests for the passenger. Squeezing a passenger—even a small one—onto a single seat is illegal.

The passenger must also follow the same safety equipment laws as the driver. In Missouri, drivers and passengers must wear a helmet, while in Kansas, only passengers under the age of 18 must wear a helmet. However, meeting these equipment standards doesn’t mean the motorcyclist is skilled enough to manage a passenger.

Riding With a Passenger Presents Challenges

Because motorcycles react to the movements of the riders, it’s important that both the driver and the passenger are prepared for such responsiveness. If the passenger doesn’t understand how motorcycles work, he or she may accidentally cause an accident by leaning the wrong way or resisting a maneuver.

The Motorcycle Safety Foundation offers the following tips for riding with a passenger:

  1. Passengers should be considered as a second “active” rider so they can help ensure that safety and procedural operations are correctly followed.
  2. A passenger will affect the handling characteristics of a motorcycle due to the extra weight and independent motion.
  3. A passenger tends to move forward in quick stops and may “bump” your helmet with theirs.
  4. Starting from a stop may require more throttle and clutch finesse.
  5. Braking procedures may be affected. Braking sooner and/or with greater pressure may be required.
  6. More weight over the rear tire may increase the usefulness and stopping power of the rear brake, especially in quick stop situations.
  7. Riding on a downgrade will cause braking distance to increase compared to a flat surface.
  8. Extra caution is called for in a corner because of the extra weight. Cornering clearances may be affected.
  9. More time and space are needed for passing.
  10. The effects of wind, especially side wind, may be more pronounced.

The Foundation also recommends practicing on a closed course with a passenger before riding on the road. Both the driver and the passenger will have to practice, as the passenger must be aware of basic riding skills as well. It can be hard for a passenger to learn to relax and lean with the driver on turns.

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Insurance Considerations for Passengers

Motorcycle owners are required to carry liability insurance on their bikes. If a biker crashes with a passenger on board and the crash is his fault, this liability policy covers the passenger. Riders may choose the between levels of liability coverage, but it must include Guest Passenger liability. Because motorcycle crash injuries can be catastrophic, we recommend the highest level of liability coverage you can afford.

If a crash is caused by another driver, both you and your passenger are covered by the other driver’s insurance policy. However, if that driver doesn’t have insurance, or doesn’t have enough insurance to compensate you and your passenger, you may be out of luck. That’s why we also recommend purchasing Uninsured Motorist coverage for your motorcycle. This protects you and your passenger in a crash that isn’t your fault.

Have You Been Injured In A Motorcycle Accident?

If you’ve been injured in a motorcycle accident you need to speak with an experienced motorcycle accident attorney as soon as possible. Please contact us online or call our Kansas City office directly at 816-471-5111 to schedule your free consultation. You can also order your FREE copy of our book, “KC Biker Bible.”