Although rarely enforced, North Carolina law clearly says that it is illegal to carry children in the rear bed of a pick up truck unless accompanied by an adult. Ejection from a vehicle increases the likelihood of serious injury or death by a factor of four, said Bill Hall of the UNC Highway Safety Research Center. Hall states, “Being in the back of a pickup truck, it’s almost a certainty you are going to be ejected, people need to realize that the bed of a pickup truck is for transporting cargo, and people are not cargo.”
North Carolina law clearly forbids children under 16 from riding in the back of trucks unless accompanied by an adult. Perhaps it should be forbidden completely to take the mystery or confusion out of this very dangerous activity. In the event of a car crash, any occupants riding in the bed will be ejected and this greatly increases the likelihood of traumatic injuries and even death.
By knowing the statistics of this activity, then you would know just how dangerous riding in the back of a pick up truck is. According to the Child Fatality Task Force, eight children under 16 riding in the beds of pickups were killed from 2002-2006 in North Carolina and 127 were seriously injured. This legislative study commission successfully pushed last year for a strengthening of the truck bed law.
Many of those injured in a pick up truck ejection accident have suffered brain injuries and will face lifelong disabilities. When there is a vehicle crash, the occupants riding along in the back are totally unprotected. On a positive note, there have been improvements in law as it relates to child protection.
North Carolina’s General Assembly approved a measure last year that broadened the scope of the law. It now covers children under 16, where previously it covered only children under 12. The change also removed an exemption for 32 rural counties. However, children are still allowed to ride in the back of pickups if they are accompanied by a supervising adult or are restrained by a belt. Other exceptions to the law include the vehicle being operated in an agricultural enterprise or a parade, or the existence of an “emergency situation.”
These amendments to the NC law took effect Oct. 1. Violation of the statute carries only a $25 fine. The Highway Patrol said rarely cites drivers for having children riding in the back of pickups, patrol Capt. Everett Clendenin said. He attributed a decline in children riding in truck beds in part to the fact that so many newer pickups on the road now have extended cabs.
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