Sales of pickup trucks nationwide are on the rise, and they have become more popular with a broad range of buyers, including more women and families.
Much of this surge in popularity is due to increased offerings in the pickup truck segment, such as a softer ride, more comfort, increased convenience, and additional safety features.
In addition to the comfort features being added to many pickups, some consumers appreciate the utility a pickup truck offers when moving, traveling, carrying cargo, or participating in recreational activities that require a convenient way to transport equipment.
One downside to owning a pick-up truck is that there may be less room for passengers to sit in seats inside the cab. For that reason, it is not unusual to see people riding in the rear cargo area (the “bed”) of a pickup truck.
However, common sense should prevail when deciding whether to ride in the bed of a pickup truck. When considering riding in the bed of a pickup, there are two important questions:
- What is the law in Virginia for passengers riding in a pickup truck bed?
- Is it a good idea to ride in the bed of a pickup truck?
What is the law in Virginia about riding in the back of a pickup?
Virginia law defines a pickup truck as:
- Every motor vehicle designed for the transportation of property and having a registered gross weight of 7,500 pounds or less or (ii) every motor vehicle registered for personal use, designed to transport property on its own structure independent of any other vehicle, and having a registered gross weight in excess of 7,500 pounds but not in excess of 10,000 pounds.
Virginia Code §46.2-1156.1 prohibits the transportation of persons under sixteen years of age “in the rear cargo area of any pickup truck on the highways of Virginia.”
However, there are two narrow exceptions to the prohibition.
- It is permissible for persons under sixteen to ride in the bed of a pickup during certain authorized parades.
- It is permissible for persons under sixteen to ride in the bed of a pickup for very limited purposes in connection with farming operations.
Should I ride in the bed of a pickup truck?
Frankly, even if you qualify as someone who can legally ride in the back of a pickup truck under Virginia law, should you?
As discussed above, while some persons are authorized to ride in the back of a pickup truck under Virginia law, it is very dangerous and should be avoided whenever possible.
Why riding in the back of a pickup truck is uniquely dangerous
The bed of a pickup truck is designed to transport cargo, and it is not designed for the comfort or safety needs of passengers.
There are no airbags, seatbelts, or protective steel beams to protect those riding in the pickup bed. There is nothing to prevent passengers riding in the pickup bed from being ejected from the vehicle during an accident.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, persons who are injured when traveling in cargo areas of pickup trucks are more likely to sustain multiple injuries and injuries of greater severity, and have a greater likelihood of death than occupants in the cab.
Naturally, one of the most concerning safety issues when traveling in a pickup bed is the risk of ejection of a passenger in a crash or even a non-crash event (such as a sudden stop or turn).
According to an NHTSA report on passenger vehicle fatalities, 83 percent of passenger vehicle occupants who were totally ejected from vehicles were killed. In addition, the NHTSA reported that between 2008 and 2017, unrestrained pickup truck occupants had the highest rate of fatalities as compared with other vehicle types.
The number of injuries, the severity of the injuries, and the risk of death are all dramatically increased by riding in a cargo bed rather than in the cab of a pickup truck. Even when the law permits passengers in the cargo bed, safety concerns should be a major consideration.