For many country folks and farm workers, bouncing along in the cargo bed of a pickup is as common as riding a motorcycle. But what types of hazards could be experienced that could make this activity downright unsafe? Since there are no seat belts within the cargo bed, minor bumps or unexpected serving can result in injuries or even be thrown out of the pickup bed without warning if the driver has to suddenly step on the brakes. If this were to happen, it could result in fatality. Children riding in a covered pickup bed risk being exposed to carbon monoxide, which could result in headaches, dizziness and possibly death with long exposure times. On a highway, the obvious things that make riding in a truck bed unsafe would be vehicle crashes, either from other cars or wild animals that cause accidents by running in front of your moving truck. On a country road, there could be ruts in the dirt or large rocks or tree limbs on the road that you may come upon suddenly causing you to lose control of your truck. You may be buckled in safely but anyone in the back of that truck bed is potentially in danger more so than the driver.
The government has stepped in with laws that vary from state to state, but has made it illegal to ride in the back of a pickup truck in 30 states. 20 States have no laws at all prohibiting riding in the cargo bed. Most of these states have vast areas of rural living where pickup trucks are used for work use and include Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Delaware, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oklahoma, S. Dakota, Vermont, Washington, W. Virginia and Wyoming.
Other states that do have laws are mostly directed toward the safety of children, some extending the age to include up at age 19. Colorado has the most lenient law allowing truck bed riding by passengers as long as all riders are seated and the bed is enclosed on all four sides, so no dangling off the legs off the tailgate. Many states will allow bed riders over the age of 18, while other states allow it with restrictions such as length of the trip and age of passengers. It is absolutely illegal to ride in a house or travel trailer while it is traveling down the highway, so it only makes sense that in an open truck bed, the risk is even more prominent, and is, therefore, protecting the passengers by the use of restrictions and laws.
What exceptions are allowed for riding in an open pickup bed? According to the state of Texas law, persons under the age of 18 are allowed in the back of the open truck when driving on the beach, to transport farm workers from one field to another, when being used during a parade or in the case of an emergency, when the pickup truck is the only vehicle the family owns, when the truck trailer is used as a hayride and only if local law enforcement approves. These laws are designed for safety, not to put a damper on your fun. Severe injury or death would not be fun for anyone involved.