Just the other day, as I was driving along the interstate I overtook a pickup truck with six youngsters riding in the cargo area. It was obvious that they had a blast, as youngsters always do in adrenalin-inducing situations. I contemplated the danger of such a ride and one question could not leave my mind: Was it legal?
According to the Insurance Insitute for Highway Safety website, whether the transport of passengers in the bed of a pickup truck is allowed or not depends on the state. The passengers are allowed to ride in the cargo area of a pickup truck without any restrictions in 20 states: AL, AK, AZ, DE, ID, IL, IN, IA, KY, MN, MS, MT, NH, ND, OK, SD, VT, WA, WV, WY.
Other states allow it only under certain circumstances. The ride is limited to non-interstate highways, to passengers’ of certain age or to rides of certain length. The age restriction varies from 12 to 19 years, depending on the state. Children younger than that are allowed to ride only if they are properly restrained in the seats installed in the bed of a pickup truck. Some states allow it only if there is no room in the passengers compartment (HI, MO, TX) or if it is work related (AR, DC, HI, KS, MO, NJ, UT and WI).
Several states allow transport of passengers in the cargo space of a pick up 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.
Why is it dangerous riding in the cargo area of a pickup? The 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.
Furthermore, the passengers can be easily ejected from the back of the truck even at relatively low speeds if the driver is forced to make sudden turns in order to avoid an obstacle. Although it is legal to ride in the cargo space of a truck, that does not mean that it is a good idea to do it. The state troopers certainly do not recommend it.