Child Road Safety for motorized two-wheelers
Sales Director Asia (RECARO Child Safety) & Volunteer Ambassador for Child Road Safety
Riding on the motorbike on a sunny day, feeling the cool breeze, to be one with the motorbike and the street - knowing you can go anytime anywhere you would like to go…
To most of the motorcyclists in the industrialized countries of the northern hemisphere, taking a joyride on a motorbike is not about the transportation from one place to the other. It is much more of a specific life-style, a passionate hobby and an expression of personal freedom – either alone or with one’s spouse or friend.
In Europe and the U.S. the majority of proud motorbike owners have an own car for the daily transportation of their family, however one should bear in mind that in other parts of the world, motorbikes or motor scooters are in most of households the only means of transportation. Especially in remote and countryside villages, where the infrastructure is fairly underdeveloped, the motorbike is considered as the only family vehicle.
As globally regulations for child restraint systems in cars are on the rise, legislators across almost all continents have a dire pent-up demand of issuing relevant regulations as far as the child safety on motorized two-wheelers is concerned.
Mostly due to the lack of regulation as well as motor bike safety education, a big proportion of the motorcyclists especially in the low and middle income countries tend to underestimate the risk of severe injuries emanating from wrong and dangerous road user behavior while riding motor bikes and scooters. Such kind of ignorance has not only detrimental effects on the life and the health of the motorcycle rider but to the same extent to the pillion passenger – in many of these cases children.
The “Global Status Report on Road Safety 2015”, conducted by the World Health Organisation (WHO-OMS), proves the fact that almost one quarter of all road traffic deaths are among motorcyclists. The amount of motorcyclist casualties is especially high in geographic regions of South East Asia as well as the Western Pacific, where the motorcycle fleet is especially huge.
What many policy makers and individuals might not be aware of is that thousands of lives of young pillion riders could be saved and the amount of serious injuries could be minimized significantly, if the motorcyclist would pay heed to the following simple but effective advice stated below:
- Before taking a ride with a pillion, it needs to be ensured that the motorbike is certified and suitable for a pillion. Of special importance are a handle for holding as well as footrests at both sides of the motorbike.
- Babies and small infants must not be transported on the motorcycle at any time.
Not until the young passenger is capable to hold itself by its own physical strength as well as its feet can comfortably reach the footrest, the child may be transported on the motorbike.
If a younger or physically smaller child rides pillion, a special child safety seat specifically designed for motorbikes is needed. The restraint system allows a safe and comfortable seating experience even on curvy or unpaved roads as the young passenger can hold the handle of the child safety seats and the feet have a secure rest position thanks to the adjustable footrest straps. If the motorcyclist wants to play safe, additionally wheel covers
will reduce the risk that the child’s legs accidentally dangle in the spokes.
Each pillion, no matter whether child or adult - has to be seated at the back of the motorcyclist.
- During the entire ride, the child must wear a helmet. As injuries to the head and neck are the major cause of death, serious injury or life-long disability, a helmet belongs to the must have equipment once transporting a child on a motorized two-wheeler. Parents should put special attention that the helmet complies with the international safety standard. Furthermore, it is of paramount importance that the helmet fits to the child’s head.
As adult helmets are too wide, the child’s head might not be well protected in the event of a crash. Moreover as the child’s head is by nature over proportionately big, an adult helmet with its heavy weight could cause body tensions at the sensitive neck and shoulder area which could lead to an irreparable postural defect of the child. In order to avoid these long-term health damages, it is strongly recommended to utilize helmets which are specifically designed and tested for children.
- Apart from the helmet, the motorcyclist should ensure the right clothing of the young pillion.
Tear proof apparel, reinforced padding at the elbows, knees and hip as well as protective clothes such as gloves and solid footwear should be the standard. Synthetic clothing should be avoided by all means as the frictional heat of the apparel and the asphalt in the event of a crash might cause severe burns to the skin of the child
- Another effective way to minimize the risk of an accident with other traffic participants is a calm and passive way of driving of the motorcyclist. Apart from reducing speed on wet, curvy and unpaved streets, the motorbike rider must avoid abrupt kick-starts and braking actions which might cause the child to fall of the motorcycle.
- Even though children tend to have sheer never-ending energy while playing, the motorcyclist should not fall oblivion of the fact, that enough breaks should be planned in – especially during rides of longer distances. As the child has no clear sight in front due to the back of the motorcyclist, the child’s head is during most of the ride turned to either one of the sides. Furthermore, the continuous holding might fatigue the child causing a lack of concentration and consequently wrong and dangerous behavior at the backseat. Regular pauses during the journey also facilitate the communication between the driver and the young passenger – especially with regards to the natural urges of the child such as thirst and hunger or the need to go to a restroom.
- Last but not least, after each journey with the child, the motorcyclist should talk with the child about his or her driving experience at the backseat. Was there anything the child especially liked or disliked? Maybe the child has questions or would like to know a feedback of the driver how to behave in certain situations during the drive.
An open communication between driver and pillion raises each other’s awareness of experiences, concerns, fears or other comments.
Bearing the above mentioned rules and recommendations in mind, nothing is wrong to bring along a child on a motorized two-wheeler. As already indicated above, the common ride on a motor bike or motor scooter – whether as a matter of choice or not - is not only a mere means of transportation but it can also become a connecting experience between the motorcyclist and the child.
Nevertheless, the safety of the motorcyclist and its pillion must not be an option but always be the first priority. By putting the above mentioned points into practice, each motorcyclist can contribute to the active reduction of motorcycle deaths, injuries and resulting disability. At the same time legislators around the world are required to issue and enforce relevant regulations to achieve a change of thinking among most of the motorcyclists – especially in those areas where the fatalities are especially high.
Always make sure:
- to not transport newborns and young infants on a motorcycle
- to not transport more than one pillion at a time
- to not transport small sized children without the necessary child safety seat specifically designed for a motorbike
- that older children can hold themselves by their own physical strength on the motorbike
- that the child’s legs are securely placed on the footrest to avoid contact with the spokes
- that motorcyclist and pillion wear certified & fitting helmets
- that motorcyclist and pillion wear at least the minimum protective clothing for riding on a motor scooter.
- that enough pauses are planned in so that the child as a pillion would remain concentrated and would not fall asleep
The Global Status Report on Road Safety 2015 can be found in the library on this site HERE
The United Nations Global Forum for Road Traffic Safety (WP1) has also produced a Consolidated Resolution of Road Traffic 2010. This is advice to governments and a copy is also in the library section or HERE
The UN is currently working to update its advice specifically on powered two wheelers