Revisit seat-belt law for truck-bed riders


POSTED: Saturday, May 23, 2009

Honolulu police have begun their annual “;Click it or ticket”; campaign through the media to encourage people to obey the seat-belt law or face a $92 ticket if caught. State law needs expansion to ban riding in the bed of a pickup truck without being fastened down, now required only for children under 13.

For more than two decades, state Rep. Barbara Marumoto has been pushing for a total ban on riding in truck beds, which has become too common throughout the state. Three years ago, four women riding in the bed of a pickup were killed and eight others seriously injured when it swerved to avoid an oncoming truck on Kunia Road and collided head-on with a cement truck. The truck bed contained no restraints.

In legislative sessions since then, Marumoto's bill received no more attention than in earlier years, when her proposal was virtually dead upon introduction. Meanwhile, riding in pickup beds has become popular in urban areas, putting unrestrained riders at risk in the slightest of fender-benders.

While federal laws require occupant compartments of vehicles to be designed to protect people in a crash, pickup truck beds are designed to carry cargo and are not designed to protect people. Hawaii is among 30 states that have laws about riding in cargo areas, but most are designed to protect children, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Hawaii law allows people 13 and older to ride in the back of pickups if all the seats in the occupant compartment are filled and the side racks and tailgate are secure. While young children and animals in truck beds must be strapped down, older children and adults are free to take the risk unless they are standing. The fine for violating the 12-year-old law is a measly $25.

That is not to diminish the danger of failing to buckle up inside a vehicle. State transportation officials say 14 people's lives could have been saved in Hawaii last year if their buckles had been fastened. The campaign to catch violators will run through the end of this month.