ITD News
Associated Press
News Link

Bill bans kids from riding in pickup beds

By Martha Stoddard
Omaha World-Herald
LINCOLN, Neb. – When is a line of vehicles a parade?

Are kids enjoying a hayrack ride sitting in part of a vehicle not intended for passengers?

And does state law already bar children from riding in the back of a pickup without seat belts?

Those puzzlers and more came before the Nebraska Legislature on recently.

The debate started out simply enough, with a bill introduced by Sen. Ray Aguilar of Grand Island that aims to protect children from falling or being thrown out of pickup beds.

Legislative Bill 227 would prohibit anyone under age 18 from riding in part of a vehicle not intended for passengers, unless they were protected with seat belts.

Over the past decade, six youngsters have died and 111 others been injured in Nebraska when riding in the back of pickup trucks, Aguilar said.

Two of those deaths were children of friends, said Sen. Dennis Byars of Beatrice, who has pushed for strengthening seat belt laws.

"I think it's a matter of us changing our culture and changing the way we do things," he said. "It's our job as public policy-makers to protect children."

But in a bow to Nebraska's rural heritage, the bill would not apply to agricultural workers being transported in the course of their jobs. Call it the detasseling crew exemption.

"When you live in Nebraska, there's concessions you have to make for agriculture," Aguilar said.

The bill also would not apply when a vehicle is part of an officially authorized parade, caravan or exhibition.

Several senators raised questions about the definitions used in the bill, especially about what constitutes a parade.

Sen. Chris Beutler of Lincoln asked whether the bill was even needed. He pointed out that existing state law requires children under age 16 to be properly restrained when being transported in motor vehicles.

He said some law enforcement officials have used current law to ticket drivers with youngsters riding in the back of pickups. Other officials, however, doubt that current law applies.

Despite the questions, senators advanced the bill. Aguilar promised to address the issues raised Wednesday before the bill comes back for the second of the three rounds of debate that are required before a bill is sent to the governor.