The back of a pick-up truck is generally intended to be a cargo area to transport inanimate objects from one location to another. Obviously, there are dangers present for passengers riding in the truck bed that are not present in the interior compartment. The back of the pick-up truck is exposed, meaning that passengers face greater injuries in the event of a crash. There is often no seating or other security devices present to keep passengers from being flung from the truck bed. Does Michigan law prohibit passengers riding in the open bed of a pick-up truck?
MCL 257.682b(1) states “an operator shall not permit a person less than 18 years of age to ride in the open bed of a pickup truck on a highway, road, or street in a city, village, or township at a speed greater than 15 miles per hour. However, this law does not apply to the operator under MCL 257.682b(2) for any of the following:
- “A motor vehicle operated as part of a parade pursuant to a permit issued by the governmental unit with jurisdiction over the highway or street.”
- “A military motor vehicle.”
- “An authorized emergency vehicle.”
- “A motor vehicle controlled or operated by an employer or an employee of a farm operation, construction business, or similar enterprise during the course of work activities.”
- “A motor vehicle used to transport a search and rescue team to and from the site of an emergency.”
Any person that violates this law is responsible for a civil infraction punishable by a fine. MCL 257.682b(3). In addition, 2 point will be added to that person’s Michigan driving record.
Generally, an adult passenger can ride in the truck bed as long as the vehicle is not exceeding 15 miles per hour. This statute is limited to a “highway, road, or street”, meaning that the law does not apply to pick-up trucks on private property such as driveways and parking lots. This does not generally run afoul of Michigan’s seat belt statutes. State law requires that “[e]ach operator and front seat passenger of a motor vehicle operated on a street or highway in this state shall wear a properly adjusted and fastened safety belt.” MCL 257.710e(3). Adult passengers in the back seat are not required to wear seatbelts, but children between 4 and 16 years of age must no matter where they are seated in the vehicle. Children under 8 years old are already required to be restrained in special child seats. MCL 257.710e(2). “If there are more passengers than safety belts available for use, and all safety belts in the motor vehicle are being utilized… , the operator of the motor vehicle is in compliance [with the law].” MCL 257.710e(4). “[I]f that motor vehicle is a pickup truck without an extended cab or jump seats, and all safety belts in the front seat are being used, the operator may transport the child in the front seat without a safety belt.” MCL 257.710e(5). Therefore, passengers may ride in the truck bed as long as they are in compliance with MCL 257.682b.
A person accused of improper passenger in a truck bed is not required to admit responsibility and can request a formal or informal hearing before a district court judge or magistrate. You may be able to convince the court that your use of the open bed met one of the exceptions under the law or that you were not actually on a public roadway. Even if the evidence against you is strong, you may be able to negotiate a resolution with the prosecutor that involves instead pleading to a traffic offense with no points (e.g. impeding traffic). You may be able to even plead the offense down to a non-moving violation such as double parking. Since improper passenger in a truck bed is an abstracted offense that is reported to the Michigan Secretary of State, it will be detected by your auto insurance carrier and your rates will go up. Avoiding points or a moving violation altogether can save you hundreds of dollars in future insurance premiums in the long run. A skilled traffic attorney can help guide you in making the right decision for your situation.
If you are charged with any traffic offense, do not hesitate to contact the traffic offense lawyers at Kershaw, Vititoe & Jedinak PLC for assistance today.