Opinions divided on riding in the back of pickups

Updated: May. 21, 2013 at 8:25 PM HST
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Tim Sakahara
Tim Sakahara
Pomai Aiu
Pomai Aiu
Rich Johnson
Rich Johnson
State Representative Ryan Yamane
State Representative Ryan Yamane
State Senator Will Espero
State Senator Will Espero

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Now that it is law for all passengers in cars to wear a seat belt some also want to ban riding in the back of pickup trucks.

First it's important to explain what the current state law says. Kids 12 and under cannot ride in the back of a pickup truck. Everyone else can if all the seats in the cab are occupied. The truck has to have sides and a working tailgate. The people need to be sitting on the floor itself not on the wheel wells and not holding down any cargo.

There are exceptions for businesses that serve the public and government agencies. It also does not apply in officially authorized parades or caravans.

That law took 20 years to pass so an outright ban is an uphill climb.

There are plenty of chilling examples online of why riding in the back of a pickup truck can deadly. Hawaii has also had tragic accidents. Three years ago 13 year old Kaaikalauamoku Kamakea-Naluai died after being thrown from the back of a truck.

In 2006 four farm workers riding in the back of a pickup were killed in Kunia after head on collision with a cement truck.

Still riding in truck beds is a common practice on the roads.

"It's kind of like a cultural thing in Hawaii. They've been doing it forever since I was a kid we've been riding in the back," said Pomai Aiu, truck owner from Manoa. "If they made the people riding in the back of the truck illegal than I don't think I would have a truck because I have a lot of friends."

"When you're young and you guys only have one truck everybody is coming for go to the beach. I think having people in the back is okay as long as you're not being reckless with it," said Rich Johnson, truck owner from Waimanalo.

Many share their opinions, especially in rural areas where families need a truck for work but can't afford another car.

"In the past one of the issues has been that people needed a versatile vehicle like a truck and in some occasions needed to transport people in the back of the bed," said State Representative Ryan Yamane, (D) House Transportation Committee Chair.

"I would prefer a total ban because whether one is an adult or child once someone's head hits the asphalt or sidewalk the results are the same," said State Senator Will Espero, (D) Senate Majority Floor Leader.

Senator Espero has tried to change the law for years. This year his idea was to ban riding in the beds of pickups altogether, but only on Oahu, exempting neighbor islands. But he's also open to compromises like only banning it on freeways.

"This is a safety measure and an issue of protecting our citizens," said Sen. Espero, who said he is not going to stop trying to change the law. "With patience and perseverance that's what it takes to get measures through."

Senator Espero points out there are laws to protect dogs in the back of pickups but not people. Still his bill never made it out of park. It stalled just four days after it was introduced.

Twenty states in the country don't have any rules against riding in pickups and no state in the country bans it completely so it seems unlikely Hawaii would be the first.

For more information on state laws around the country regarding riding in the back of pickups click here.

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