December 2014

Federal standards require that occupant compartments of vehicles be designed to protect occupants during a crash. The beds of pickup trucks are designed to carry cargo, not people, and are not designed to provide protection in a crash. In addition, children and adults can be easily ejected from cargo areas at relatively low speeds as a result of a sharp turn to avoid an obstacle or crash.

The hazards of riding in cargo areas have been addressed in 30 states and the District of Columbia by a variety of laws, most of which are designed to protect children, but few of which provide comprehensive protection for all children younger than 16. Safety belt and child restraint laws also may apply to prevent people from riding unrestrained in cargo areas.

The following table and map show which states have laws regarding riding in cargo areas and the major gaps or exemptions in those laws.

State Restrictions on riding in cargo areas Who is not covered
Alabama no state law no state law
Alaska no state law no state law
Arizona no state law no state law
Arkansas yes1 employees on duty; people within bodies of trucks in a space intended for merchandise
California yes if the person is restrained by a federally approved restraint system; farmer owned vehicle used exclusively within farming land or 1 mile of highway between 1 part to another; parade if not more than 8 miles per hour; emergency situations
Colorado yes people sitting in the cargo area if it is fully or partially enclosed on all 4 sides
Connecticut yes people 16 and older; people 15 and younger if belted; parades; farming operations; hayrides August through December
Delaware no state law no state law
District of Columbia yes1 employees on duty; people riding within truck bodies in a space intended for materials
Florida yes all persons 18 and older; persons 17 and younger in an enclosed cargo area; persons 17 and younger on non-limited-access roads unless local law exempts them from the prohibition on minors riding the cargo areas of pickup trucks and flatbeds; persons 17 and younger on non-limited-access roads in a seat fitted with a safety belt that has been added to the pickup or flatbed; employees on duty
Georgia yes people 18 and older; people 17 and younger in pickup trucks with covered cargo areas; any pickup truck off the interstate
Hawaii yes people may ride in back of pickup trucks if there are no available seats in the cab and the side racks and tailgate are securely closed, and the passengers are seated on the floor and do not attempt to unlash cargo; also exempts life threatening emergencies; parades; employees on duty
Idaho no state law no state law
Illinois no state law no state law
Indiana no state law no state law
Iowa no state law no state law
Kansas yes people 14 and older; parades; employment; does not apply to vehicles not being operated in the state highway system or within the corporate limits of a city
Kentucky no state law no state law
Louisiana yes people 12 and older if the truck is being moved on a non-interstate highway; parades moving less than 15 mph; emergencies if the child is with an adult in the cargo area; emergencies while moving on an interstate highway
Maine yes people 19 and older; agricultural workers and hunters 18 and younger; parades; and people in OEM installed seats outside passenger compartment
Maryland yes people 16 and older; people 15 and younger if the vehicle is traveling 25 mph or less; employees being transported to work sites or people engaged in farming operations; exceptions do not eliminate requirement to use child restraint or belts; inapplicable to pickup trucks with covered cargo areas
Massachusetts yes people 12 and older; people 11 and younger if the vehicle is being driven less than 5 miles and less than 5 mph; parades; farming activities
Michigan yes 18 and older; 17 and younger if the vehicle is moving 15 mph or less; parades; military vehicles; emergency situations; farming; construction
Minnesota no state law no state law
Mississippi no state law no state law
Missouri yes people 18 and older; people 17 and younger if the vehicle is not being operated on a highway which is part of the state or federal highway system or within the corporate limits of any city; exceptions for employment; agricultural activities; parades; where there is a device to keep the passenger from being thrown or falling out of the vehicle; special events; assisting people in a recreational activity; family owned truck with insufficient room in the cab for all passengers; inapplicable to pickup trucks with covered cargo areas
Montana no state law no state law
Nebraska yes people age 18 or older; parades
Nevada yes people age 18 or older; people younger than 18 when the vehicle is used in farming or ranching or if vehicle is used in an authorized parade; vehicles operated on unpaved roads; people riding in areas enclosed by a camper shell
New Hampshire no state law no state law
New Jersey yes employees engaged in their duties
New Mexico yes people 18 and older
New York yes inapplicable to trips of 5 miles or less; inapplicable to trips of more than 5 miles if one-third or less of the passengers are standing or if suitable seats are securely attached and there are side rails and a tailgate; inapplicable to trips of more than 5 miles if there are less than 5 persons 17 or younger in the cargo area or if at least one person 18 or older is in the cargo area
North Carolina yes people 16 and older; persons 15 and younger if a supervising adult is present in the cargo area; when the child is belted; emergencies; parades; vehicle being used in agriculture; vehicles with permanent overhead structures
North Dakota no state law no state law
Ohio yes people 16 and older; people 15 and younger if the vehicle is driven less than 25 mph or if the person is seated and belted in an OEM seating position; emergencies; inapplicable to pickup trucks with covered cargo areas
Oklahoma no state law no state law
Oregon yes people 18 and older; minors secured with a safety belt or harness; parades; minors seated on the floor of the open bed of a motor vehicle in which all available passenger seats are occupied by minors, the tailgate is securely closed and the minor is being transported either in the course and scope of employment or between a hunting camp and hunting site or between hunting sites during hunting season and the minor has a hunting license
Pennsylvania yes people 18 and older if the vehicle is traveling less than 35 mph; inapplicable to occupants 17 and younger if the cargo area is enclosed; parades, hunting, and farm operations
Rhode Island yes people 16 and older; people 15 and younger who are secured in the cargo area
South Carolina yes people 15 and older; people 15 and younger when an adult is present; when the child is belted; parade; emergency situation; agricultural activities; hunting; vehicle has a secured metal tailgate and operated less than 36 mph; vehicle operated in county
South Dakota no state law no state law
Tennessee yes people 12 and older; people 6-11 in a vehicle being operated off the interstate or state highway system; parades if vehicle going less than 20 mph; agricultural activities; or on city or county roads unless prohibited by local ordinance or resolution
Texas yes people 18 and older; vehicles that are the only vehicles owned by members of the household; vehicles in parades, hay rides, or on beaches, or being used in an emergency; vehicles in farm operations used to transport people from field to field or on farm
Utah yes[Cargo ] off highway operation; employees performing their duties; people riding in a vehicle space that is intended for any load
Vermont no state law no state law
Virginia yes people 16 and older; farmers when crossing a highway to go from field to field
Washington no state law no state law
West Virginia no state law no state law
Wisconsin yes1 inapplicable to enclosed areas; farm operations; parades; deer hunting; employees; people riding in truck bodies in spaces intended for merchandise
Wyoming no state law no state law

1This provision is designed to prohibit riding on hoods, fenders, and other places not designed for passengers. The exemption for people in the body of a truck applies to enclosed areas like the cargo area of a straight truck or van.