February 2019

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.

Hover over map for more detail.