In the wee hours of Wednesday, a group of 11 people, ranging in age from 14 to 20, were involved in a fatal crash in Clay County. The crash killed a 17-year-old.
While a small amount of marijuana was found at the scene, neither drugs nor alcohol have yet appeared to be a factor in the crash. The mother of Isaac Murphy, the 18-year-old driver, said her son fell asleep at the wheel.
The group was riding in a pickup truck, and some of the passengers were riding in the bed of the truck, which is legal in West Virginia.
In fact, as long as you’re an older teen or adult, it’s legal to ride in the bed of a pickup truck just about everywhere, according to data from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
Besides West Virginia, 19 other (largely rural) states have no law whatsoever against riding in the bed of a pickup – Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Delaware, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Vermont, Washington and Wyoming.
But lack of a law doesn’t mean other states are much more restrictive. In fact, of the 30 states and Washington, D.C., that do have laws, every single one has exemptions.
Most of those exemptions deal with age restrictions. States have established minimum ages passengers must be to ride in the cargo area, from as young as 12 (Louisiana, Massachusetts and Tennessee) to as high as 19 (Maine).
In other cases, states have built in exemptions taking into account employment, how fast the truck is traveling, if the bed is enclosed, how the truck is being used, if the truck is on private or public property and other minor exemptions.
So is West Virginia in the minority when it comes to having no law against riding in the back of a pickup? Yes.
But is the state backwards, or alone, by not banning such a practice? Judging by exemptions in other states and states with no laws, It doesn’t appear that way.
What do you think? Should the state place restrictions on all or some people riding in pickup truck beds, or should the decision be left up to drivers and passengers?