Riding in the back of a pickup truck can feel liberating. It can conjure up memories of your nostalgic childhood, as you rode in the back of the family pickup. But with the changes in vehicle safety laws, you might be wondering if it’s legal to ride in the truck bed these days. Although it may seem unimaginable now, there was a time where wearing a seatbelt was merely a suggestion. Let’s take a look at some of the details on laws that prohibit (or permit) riding in the back of a pickup truck.
State by State Case
The easy answer to your question is that it depends. While 31 states place some regulation on passengers riding in the bed of a truck, there are still 20 states that have no legal regulation. You won’t need to worry about legal restrictions on riding in the back of a pickup truck if you’re in Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Delaware, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia or Wyoming.
However, for the remaining 30 states, you’ll need to make sure you check the legal requirements for each state. Some states only have regulations on the age requirements of passengers who ride in the back of a pickup truck. Others (like Arkansas, Utah, and New Jersey) prohibit passengers from riding in the back of a truck altogether. If you’re ever in doubt, do a simple internet search to see what the legal restrictions are for riding in the back of a pickup truck.
It’s also important to remember this caveat – just because something is legal, it doesn’t mean that it’s safe. Riding in the back of a pickup truck can fall under this umbrella.
Opting to ride in the back of a pickup truck comes with some safety tradeoffs. For example, passengers in the bed of a truck don’t have the security of interior safety features, such as seatbelts and airbags, though truck bed rails can be installed for better handholds within the truck bed. In the case of a collision or sudden stop, passengers in the bed of a truck are at a much higher risk of injury. While joyriding in the bed of a truck can seem like fun, it can become dangerous very quickly. This is especially true if the driver is not paying attention or traveling at speeds that can jeopardize the lives of the passengers in the bed.
At the end of the day, it really comes down to which state you’re in. As you can see, the laws vary from state to state, and many states don’t have any restrictions on riding in the back of a pickup truck. While riding in the bed can bring back nostalgic memories, it’s important to consider the potential risk factors before you go for a trip down the street or off-roading on a trail.