Although it is incredibly dangerous, it is not illegal in every state to ride in the back cargo area of a pickup truck. The legality of passengers traveling in the back of a truck varies greatly from state to state. In some states, whether or not a law is broken depends on the passengers age. In Connecticut for example, riding in a pickup truck bed is not permitted for occupants under age 16 unless belted. In Delaware, traveling in the cargo area of a pickup truck is permitted with no age restrictions listed.
Restrictions By State
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety website, whether the transport of passengers in the bed of a pickup truck is allowed or not depends solely on the laws in each state. The passengers are allowed to ride in the cargo area of a pickup truck without any restrictions in 19 states: AL, AK, AZ, DE, ID, IN, IA, KY, MN, MS, MT, NH, ND, OK, SD, VT, WA, WV, WY. Other states allow it only under certain circumstances. For example, some states mandate that the ride is limited to non-interstate highways or to rides of a certain length.
Many states restrict passengers under a specific age from traveling in the back of a pickup truck. The age restriction varies from 12 to 19 years, depending on the state. Some states allow it only if there is no room in the passenger’s compartment (HI, MO, TX) or if it is work related (AR, DC, HI, KS, MO, NJ, UT and WI). In contrast, other states require that children younger than 12 are properly restrained in seats installed in the truck bed in order to be allowed to travel in this area.
Several states allow the transport of passengers in the cargo space of a truck when riding on rural roads and other non-interstate and state highways for farming purposes, during parades and if the speed does not exceed 25 mph (OH) or 35 mph (PA and SC). In many states the restrictions are not applicable in case of emergencies. Illinois appears to have some of the strictest laws regarding travel in the back of a pickup truck; seat belts are required for all passengers in all seating positions. Violation of the seat belt laws is a standard offense in IL and riding in pickup truck beds is always illegal.
Dangers of Riding in the Back of a Pickup Truck
There are several dangers to traveling in the back of a pickup truck. A truck’s cargo area is designed for transporting cargo. It is not designed for carrying passengers and it will not protect them if the vehicle is involved in a crash, as there is no standard safety equipment provided by truck manufacturers for the truck bed area.
Furthermore, passengers can be easily ejected from the back of the truck even at relatively low speeds. Also, if a driver is forced to make sudden turns in order to avoid an obstacle in the road, passengers in the truck bed are put at serious risk. Although it is legal to ride in the cargo space of a truck in certain states, it is generally not a good idea.
According to FindLaw, “Alabama’s Representative Kerry Rich recently introduced a bill to prohibit people under the age of 19 from riding in the back of a pickup truck after a fatal accident killed four people sitting in the back of a pickup truck. The law faced opposition and did not pass.” In 2015, the state of Maryland passed a law that makes it illegal to ride unsecured in an unenclosed area of a motor vehicle. A violation could bring a $250 fine.
Unfortunately, there are several documented cases of fatal accidents involving passengers riding in the back of a pickup truck. For example, in 2013, two teens died in Oklahoma after a truck they were riding in crashed early Saturday morning. “Five passengers were thrown from the vehicle. Four of those passengers were riding in the truck bed,” according to News On 6.
Traveling in the bed area of a truck is dangerous and never a good idea. However, it is not illegal in every state. Every state has specific laws mandating who can ride in the back of a pickup truck, when, and why. Before traveling in the back of a truck, research whether or not it is legal in your state.