Take one cursory glance at the roads in the country or rural areas, and you could be seeing a bunch of people hitching a ride on open beds of pickup trucks without a worry in the world.
It’s incredibly convenient to slide into the back of your pickup truck and get more up close and personal with the great outdoors. It is also human nature to avoid risk. Which begs the question - Is riding in the back of a pickup truck safe, or even legal?
State laws are divided when it comes to defining the legal limits of riding in pickup trucks, with some completely banning the practice and others allowing it within certain restrictions. So while it is technically legal in certain situations to ride in the back of your pickup truck, it is not advisable to do so. There’s just too much danger involved.
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Here’s a video that convincingly demonstrates the aftermath of a deadly accident when a car rams the back of the pickup truck traveling at roughly 56mph.
The unfortunate dummies in the back don’t stand a chance as they’re launched dozens of feet into the air like rag dolls, hopelessly crashing on to the ground. The forces involved during such car crashes are powerful enough to rip apart, dislocate, and in worse case scenarios, decapitate a full grown adult.
Hundreds of passengers die every year because of riding in the cargo area or bed. Not only are they exposed to the surroundings, but they have nothing on board to secure their positions on account of not having seat belts.
While being launched into the air is crazier than it sounds, it is one of the most common reasons attributed to injuries and deaths. The occasional jolt when a pickup truck suddenly comes to a stop, takes a sharp turn without warning, or hits a bump is enough to send people flying into the air.
A minor fender bender isn’t the only thing that poses a direct threat. Another health concern is the exposure to carbon monoxide that is emitted from the exhaust pipe of the pickup truck.
Is riding in the back of a pickup truck even legal?
Despite the level of danger involved, it is not illegal in some states to ride in the cargo area of a pickup truck. There are a few conditions that passengers and drivers have to follow, and this varies from state to state. In 19 states, there are absolutely no restrictions for passengers.
The most common restrictions apply to people within the age group of 12 to 19 years. Below, we will discuss the relevant laws in each state in great detail.
Disclaimer: Always get legal advice from your attorney. For the full scope the law in your states regarding riding on the back of pickup trucks, consult with your lawyer. The following section should not be taken as legal advice.
It is legal to ride in the bed of an unenclosed pickup truck.
Riding in the back of a pickup truck is allowed unrestricted.
It is permitted to ride in the pickup truck bed without restrictions.
It is not allowed to ride in the bed of a pickup truck except for employees on duty.
It is not allowed to ride in the bed area of a pickup truck.
It is allowed to ride in a pickup truck bed so long as the passenger is protected by an enclosed cargo area.
Occupants riding in a pickup truck bed must be over the age of 16. If they are younger, they must be belted.
Riding in a pickup truck bed is fully permitted for all individuals.
9. District of Columbia
Only employees on duty can ride in a pickup truck bed. Normal passengers are prohibited and will be fined.
Passengers under the age of 18 are restricted unless they are secured by an enclosed area. This restriction does not apply to employees on duty.
People under the age of 18 are not allowed to ride in a pickup truck bed unless they are secured by behind an enclosed area.
It is prohibited to ride in the back of a pickup truck, exceptions can be made if the pickup truck has no additional seating available.
Idaho law does not impose any penalties on passengers riding in the bed of a pickup truck.
Illinois law has no restrictions on passengers riding in pickup truck beds.
It is not allowed to ride in the cargo area of pickup trucks. Certain restrictions may apply.
It is permitted to ride in the back of pickup trucks unless local ordinance prohibits you from doing so.
People under the age of 18 are not allowed to ride in a pickup truck bed.
Kentucky laws do not prevent passengers from riding in a pickup truck bed.
No passengers are allowed to ride in the cargo area of pickup trucks on an interstate highway. Children under the age of 12 are not allowed to ride in pickup truck beds on highways, especially when they are not secured by an enclosing.
It is not permitted for passengers under the age of 19 to ride in the back of pickup trucks.
It is not permitted for people under the age of 16 to ride in pickup truck beds if the truck is moving at speeds higher than 25 mph. It is mandatory to have proper child restraints on board to secure younger passengers.
It is not allowed for children under the age of 12 to ride in pickup truck beds if the truck is traveling at less than 5 mph speed and covering a distance of less than 5 miles.
People under the age of 18 are not allowed to ride in pickup truck beds unless the vehicle is traveling at speeds under 16 mph.
It is fully permitted to ride in the back of pickup trucks.
People under the age of 18 are not allowed to ride in pickup truck beds if the truck is traveling on interstates and urban areas.
It is fully permitted to ride in pickup truck beds.
It is not allowed for passengers under the age of 18 to ride in pickup truck beds.
It is not permitted to ride in pickup truck beds for passengers under the age of 18 except for work-related reasons.
29. New Hampshire
It is fully permitted to ride in pickup truck beds.
30. New Jersey
It is not permitted to ride in the cargo area of pickup trucks under any circumstances, except for passengers on duty.
31. New Mexico
It is not allowed for people under the age of 18 to ride in a pickup truck bed.
32. New York
It is not permitted to ride in the cargo area of pickup trucks.
33. North Carolina
Passengers under the age of 17 are not allowed to ride in the back of a pickup truck unless they are secured with a belt or are under adult supervision.
34. North Dakota
It is fully permitted to ride in the back of a pickup truck without any restrictions.
It is not allowed for passengers to ride in pickup truck beds if the tailgate is unsecured. Passengers under the age of 16 are not allowed to ride if the truck is moving at speeds of more than 25 mph.
It is fully permitted to ride in the cargo area of pickup trucks.
It is not permissible for passengers under the age of 18 to travel in pickup truck beds unless they are secured by a restraint.
It is not allowed for passengers under 18 years old to ride in pickup truck beds if they are travelling above a speed limit of 35 mph.
39. Rhode Island
It is not allowed for people under the age of 16 to ride in the back of pickup trucks unless they are secured with a passenger restraint.
40. South Carolina
It is not allowed for children under 15 years old to ride in the bed of a pickup truck unless they are secured by passenger restraints or under adult supervision.
41. South Dakota
It is fully permitted to ride in the bed area of pickup trucks.
Children under the age of 12 are not allowed to ride in the back of pickup trucks.
Passengers under 18 years old are not allowed to ride in the cargo area of pickup trucks. Passengers can only ride in the bed area if the pickup truck is owned by family members.
It is not allowed to ride in a pickup truck bed except for employees for work-related reasons.
It is fully permitted to ride in the back of a pickup truck.
It is not allowed for passengers under the age of 16 to ride in the cargo area of pickup trucks.
It is fully legal to ride in pickup truck beds.
48. West Virginia
West Virginian laws do not prevent passengers from riding in pickup truck beds; no restrictions apply.
It is not allowed to ride in pickup truck beds except for valid reasons that include work, farm operations, hunting, and parades.
It is fully permitted to ride in the back of pickup trucks without any restrictions.
For a list of complete details, visit the official website of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety here.
What About Dogs Riding in The Back of a Pickup Truck?
While it can be dangerous for pets to ride in the back of pickup trucks, state laws are just as divided about applying restrictions as they are for human passengers. Here’s a quick study conducted by American Humane which reports that over 100,000 dogs die every year due to accidents resulting from riding in pickup truck beds.
They share the same threats as human counterparts, such as ejection from seat and carbon monoxide poisoning. Additionally, it is possible for dogs to see something, get spooked and jump out because they don’t recognize the dangers involved. Putting on a leash doesn’t help.
So What’s the Best Way to Transport a Dog?
Some states have laws in place that prevent owners from transporting their dogs in the back of pickup trucks without proper restraint. Fortunately, there is a market for fully secure dog restraints that make it a million times safer to travel with your dog in the cargo area of your pickup truck. There are special crates that let you do this without sliding down the back.
To make it easier for you, we have rounded up our pick of the best pickup truck cargos for your pet.
1. Aluminum Single Hole Dog Box by Diamond Deluxe
There are two versions of this dog box, medium size and large size. The outer casing has welded diamond coating for ultra durability. An extremely sturdy door at the front provides safety to your dog. The best parts about this pickup truck cargo are the vents that prevent moisture buildup, a common occurrence over time, especially if you’re riding for extended periods of time.
This cargo is built like a tank thanks to the diamond casing. Just make sure to select the appropriate cargo for your dog’s actual size.
Click here to buy this carrier.
2. Scratch Resistant Metallic Crate by Trixie
A sleek architectural design that should make your pickup truck look more appealing makes this metallic crate a must-buy. The manufacturer promises this crate from being scratch free, which means that no matter how hard your pet scratches away at the interior, the surface will hold fine. A sturdy aluminum frame ensures maximum durability that can withstand extreme stress.
This metallic can house large dogs that might weigh over 150 pounds.
3. Aluminum Dog Crate by Impact
This dog crate should make it easier to transport your dog from point A to point B thanks to its durable design which packs a ton aesthetic appeal. The casing itself is rust-resistant, and won’t be fading any time soon. There’s ventilation on all four sides to keep your dog comfortable during longer journeys. Maintenance is super easy thanks to conveniently located drain holes for quick cleaning.
A cool feature known as ‘slam latch’ secures the door without the need to place locks. There are two sizes to choose from, make sure you choose the appropriate size for your pet.
Click here to buy it on Amazon.
4. Modular Kennel Cage by Pro Select
The reason why this modular kennel cage made our list is due because of a wide array of customizable options. A sturdy frame made of 20 gauge steel, zinc plated material provides unparalleled durability to the cage at a conveniently price tag. The casing is protected by powder coated hammerstone for a great looking design that provides additional safety.
This cage gets full marks from us in terms of design and aesthetics. A removable door makes maintenance very convenient as well. All in all, this cage is just what you need if you plan on taking your pet dog for extended trips.
5. Full Ventilation Aluminum Dog Crate by Activedogs
This dog crate features all the bells and whistles you could ever want from a high-end dog cage. More importantly, it can be hitched on your pickup truck to secure your dog in place. Its sturdy aluminum design does not rust and is a rather poor conductor of heat, which is perfect for your pet under in harsh climates. Furthermore, the bars are chew-proof, which means your dog can keep trying to bite away at it, but won’t break through.
Click here to buy it on Amazon.
6. Pet Crate by New Age Pet
Made of environmentally friendly yet durable wood, this cage fits the bill when it comes to providing a safe spot for your dog while it travels at the back of your pickup truck. The best part is that the material, which is a special blend of plastic-wood polymer and is highly resistant to damage and won’t be cracking anytime soon. Furthermore, the steel latch makes it possible to lock the door and keep it fully secured.
There are five different sizes, ranging from Small all the way to XL. Dogs, as heavy as 80lbs, can be supported by the crate.
7. Dog Box 55002 by Dog Box
The second dog crate by Owens to feature on our list is just as durable. It is especially designed to secure dogs while they’re being transported at the back of pickup trucks. The 55002 has diamond tread aluminum construction for unmatched durability and lined compartment to make routine maintenance easy to perform.
There is a vent at the rear of the crate to make your dog’s stay more comfortable for extended journeys. The crate weighs between 55 and 60 lbs and does require a little assembly. It has the following dimensions: 23 by 45 by 26, so don’t expect much moving space for your dog.
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