If you want to take your kids out on the trail with you in your side by side, there are some things you should consider first. Not only how to keep them safe, but is it legal, and what laws do you need to worry about.
After all, outdoor trail riding is a recreational family activity. So I totally understand wanting to get your kids out on the trail with you. But unfortunately a lot of people are doing it wrong, and either breaking the law, or endangering their kids.
Sure, some states laws are more strict than others, and some might argue they don’t always make the most sense. But I’m sure we all can agree, keeping our kids safe is of the upmost importance out on the trail.
How Old Does A Child Have To Be To Ride In A Side By Side?
Most UTVs or side by sides will have a warning sticker from the manufacturer stating that all passengers must be 12 years of age or older to ride in a side by side. Some state laws take it a step further requiring that a passenger must be able to grasp a handhold while properly restrained with their back against the seat.
In most states the recreational off-road vehicle (ROV) laws don’t apply on private land. But it’s probably still a good idea to make sure your child is harnessed in properly and has a handhold or something to hold onto to stabilize themselves.
The most common handhold is a grab bar or something mounted inside the UTV for passengers to hold onto while riding. You may have heard it called the ‘oh s*** handle’ before. These can be found pretty cheap online now like this MoveLand Grab Bar Handle For UTVs from Amazon.
You would simply attach it to the roll cage or somewhere the passenger can reach to hold onto for stabilization while riding. If you have nowhere to attach one of these where your child can reach, your best bet is to use wrist restraints instead.
A lot of riders prefer wrist restraints over installing a grab bar that their kids can reach. The wrist restraints connect to the wrists and the seat belt. They do count as handholds in most cases if you need to comply with that law.
Check out this pair of Red Crow Wrist Restraints For A UTV here on Amazon to get an idea of what you’re looking for. These will keep your child from sticking their arms out of the side by side while riding and also gives them something to hold onto for stability.
UTV Child Booster Seats
They do make booster seats for young children to put into UTVs and side by sides. But if the child is small enough to need a booster seat, it is probably against the law to have them as a passenger in the UTV in the first place.
Even on private land, you are probably disregarding the manufacturer recommendation by putting a child that small into a side by side. I don’t recommend using a booster seat, instead just wait until the child is old enough to safely ride in the side by side themselves.
Some people will no doubt still want to bring their small child with them on the trail. If you just must get a child booster seat, then at the very least get one that has a full 4 point or 5 point harness to keep the child strapped in safely.
Since you can’t 100 percent guarantee that you won’t get into an accident, I don’t recommend bringing a child that needs a booster seat.
Whatever you do, don’t be like this guy:
Child Safety Gear
Your child should be wearing all the normal safety gear any other rider should be wearing. Of course a helmet, goggles, boots, and gloves. But another piece of safety gear you may want to consider for a child is a neck collar.
Kids heads tend to bobble and bounce around a lot on the trail, and a good neck collar will help prevent them from straining their neck as well as protect them in case of a roll over or crash.
To get more info about proper safety gear for your child check out my ATV Safety Protective Gear For Kids article. Where I go into a lot more detail of each piece of safety gear and the best options for you to look through. Yes, that article was written with ATV riding in mind, but the safety gear for UTV riding is the same.
Seat Belt And Harness
Most UTVs come stock with the simple 3 point harness, with one strap across your lap and one crossing over your chest. These are usually ok if you don’t plan on riding too fast or dangerously. But with kids in the side by side, you might want to start thinking about upgrading to a 4 point or 5 point harness.
The 4 point harness is a lot safer, for the kids, but for the driver too. They aren’t too difficult to install and will make your ride a lot more comfortable, not to mention the peace of mind you’ll get from having them.
Here is a very nice Set Of 2 Dragonfire Racing 4-Point H-Style Harnesses for you to get your search started. I would recommend getting something with wide padded straps for comfort.
Give Your Kids Riding Rules
It’s always a good idea to give the kids some ‘riding rules’ I like to call them. I also recommend you lead by example. As soon as they see you riding without a helmet, they won’t want to wear their helmet anymore either, trust me on this one.
Some good riding rules for you to think about:
- Kids don’t drive the UTV
- No one gets towed by the UTV
- Never start the engine
- Never get in the UTV without an adult
- Hands inside the UTV at all times
- Always wear your safety gear and harness
The list can be longer of course, this is just to give you an idea of some of the rules we implement when we go riding. Most kids don’t know better yet, and it’s up to the parents to keep them safe.
Always check your local laws, especially if you’re going to be riding on public land. The laws differ by state, it’s best to be prepared and know what’s expected where you’ll be riding.
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