Children on Motorbikes

If you ride a motorbike, so long as you are old enough, have a full licence and the vehicle is correctly fitted with the appropriate equipment, you are permitted to carry a passenger.

You are also permitted to carry children as passengers, but there are some restrictions to ensure their safety:

• You, the rider, must be over 18.

• The child passenger must be over 12, except a child of 7 or above can be a passenger being driven by their parent, guardian or person authorised by their parent or guardian, provided all other requirements are met.

• If the passenger’s feet don’t reach the footrests correctly, they cannot be carried.

• The passenger must sit on the rearmost seat, which must be designed to carry passengers.

In no case is it permitted for a passenger to sit between the driver and the handlebars of the motorcycle or moped. This also applies to bicycles.

Depending on your own insurance policy, you may need additional cover in order to carry passengers, so check your policy before you do.

The passenger, like the rider, must wear an approved motorbike helmet and gloves are advised.

The Mathematics of the Stopping Distance

Maintaining a safe distance is one of the fundamental factors of road safety. However it is not always easy to calculate how much space we need to leave between us and the vehicle in front, but there is a simple solution to a mathematical problem.

• There are two main factors that influence how we are able to bring our vehicle to a safe stop:

• The first one is the reaction time, (the time between the stimulation of a sensory organ and the start of a response or a reaction.) Applied to an emergency situation while driving, it is the time between we perceive a danger and act on the controls of the vehicle to avoid a collision.

• The second is the braking distance, which, as its name indicates, is the distance it takes for our vehicle to stop completely from the moment we apply the brakes.

The word, ‘hazard’, in motoring terms, is ‘anything, actual or potential, which causes a vehicle to deviate speed, course or direction.’

Irrespective of maximum speed limits on the road, we should always drive at a speed which allows us to stop well within a distance we can see to be clear.

We will analyse a hypothetical situation in which we are driving on the motorway and the vehicle that precedes us abruptly stops:

Our natural reaction will be to step on the brake pedal as quickly and forcefully as possible to avoid the collision. The time that elapses between the perception of the danger, or hazard and the moment we step on the brake pedal is the ‘reaction time’. During that time interval, we will have travelled some distance before we actually started to reduce the speed of the vehicle.

Once we depress the brake pedal, the vehicle will still continue to travel forward and will do so for a variable number of metres depending on the state of our brake equipment, the condition of the tyres, the suspension and the road condition, until we stop completely. This is the ‘braking distance’.

Although there are many different factors which determine the actual reaction time and braking distance, we can establish equations based on common elements.

For example, in the hypothetical situation that we have just described, it is likely that the reaction time would be 0.75 seconds, assuming the driver is alert and in good physical and mental health. If we are tired or distracted, the reaction time is significantly affected. However, maintaining our 0.75 second principal reaction time; if we are on a motorway and travelling at 120km/hr, our vehicle would have travelled 25 metres before we depress the brake pedal.

The accurate braking distance is significantly more difficult to estimate, because of the different parameters of each vehicle, road and environmental conditions. However we can generalise once again. A modern vehicle in good condition, on a good road in good weather will travel between 65 and 75 metres from a speed of 120km/hr.

In total, during our hypothetical situation, we travelled 25 metres and 70 metres during our respective reaction time and braking distance and so 95 metres were covered from the moment we perceived the hazard and our vehicle coming to a stop. Therefore, it is crucial that we had a minimum of 100 metres distance between us and the vehicle in front to allow us to stop in time.

We must stress the word, minimum.

The more distance we have, the safer we will be. Remember these are ‘optimum’ conditions we are talking about, but there are too many factors for it to be exact for every vehicle or situation. This is the reason that distance marker chevrons are spaced at 100 metres apart on motorways. It is advisable to keep two chevrons apart from the vehicle in front, (200 metres), thus doubling our minimum safety distance.

We also mention the weather and environmental conditions. In wet weather the distance should always be at least doubled, although the roads are particularly hazardous during the first rain after a dry spell, so the more distance you can leave, the better.

We have discussed motorways, but the same equations apply on all roads. If we are travelling on an area of the conventional road network where the maximum permitted speed is 90km/hr and the conditions allow us to do that safely, then we will have travelled 18.75 metres during the reaction time and the braking distance for a modern car in top condition would be 40 metres, so we will have travelled almost 60 metres from the moment we noticed the hazard. Our minimum distance on these roads therefore should be 75 metres, although again it is better to double it to 150 metres.

On slower moving roads we should have at least 25 metres on roads where the maximum traffic flow is at 50km/hr and 9 metres distance at 30km/hr. 

You might remember the ‘two second rule’ from your days of learning to drive. You can still use a variation of that concept:

“Only a fool breaks the two second rule”.

At a normal pace, even in your head, saying the above takes around 2 seconds.

Keeping an eye on the vehicle in front, watch as it passes a fixed point on the road; a sign, a shadow, a parked car and say the phrase to yourself, or count if it’s easier. If you pass the same point before reaching the end of the sentence then you are too close, so back off.  It is better if you can leave 3 or 4 seconds, repeating the phrase. In our motorway scenario above, the car would travel over 60 metres in 2 seconds, so you can see that it’s not enough.

Remember, the more distance you can allow, the safer you will be, as you are then more likely to be able to stop well within the distance you can see to be clear.