Pick-up joy rides hazardous

Pro seatbelt campaigns such as “Click It or Ticket” are aimed to encourage motorists to buckle up.

However, it is not illegal for Floridians to ride in the back of pick-up trucks.

According to the Florida Highway Patrol, in 2003, there were four fatalities and 119 injuries of passengers ages 15-24 that rode in the bed of a pick-up truck.

“No matter how safe the driver is, you’re still on an object moving over a solid unyielding surface at often high speeds,” said Edward Vincent, a Florida deputy sheriff from Pensacola.

“Unpredictable things can happen and if they do, you have already lost the protection of the vehicle body surrounding you and the seatbelts within.”

According to Florida state law, you may go unbelted unless you are the driver or under 18.

Passengers may sit in the back of a pick-up truck as long as you are seated and not on the wheel wells.

Dogs may also ride in the back of the pick-up truck, without any type of restraint.

Citizens of Tallahassee are aware of the dangers but have differing opinions about the safety of their passengers.

Michelle Hudson, a Tallahassee native and an expectant mother, rides to Wal-Mart with her husband in their Ford F-350.

With her first child to be born within a couple months, her concerns about passengers in the back of the truck increase.

Hudson will put her three bulldogs in kennel crates in the back, but never passengers.

“There are seatbelts for that reason,” Hudson said. “Kennels to keep dogs safe and seatbelts to keep humans safe.”

Jessica Williams, 21, a senior CIS student from Augusta, Ga., said she had a very different experience with her pick-up truck and her dog.

“One doggy jumped out and died,” Williams said.

Despite bad personal experiences, students still hop in the back of a friend’s pick-up truck, or put their dog back there.

“I think that placing any person or animal in the back bed of a moving vehicle is irresponsible and dangerous,” Vincent said. “I have seen a lot of dead dogs that got excited and jumped out of a moving car.”

Josh Wesley,21, a Tallahassee native, said there are rules to driving with passengers in the back of his pick-up truck.

Wesley said he will not allow more than five passengers in the back, and will not exceed 45 miles per hour.

“A dog is different,” Wesley said. He said that if the dog is not smart enough to sit and stay down in the bed of the truck, it should not be back there in the first place.

Williams’ rules are different. She will make men sit back there if she has to, but usually not women and never children.

She also will only take passengers in the back if it is very short distances, like driving to a friend’s house in town.

She tries not to even allow passengers in the back. She will only take as many as the cab can hold and will come back for others if she has time.

“My mom doesn’t like it. I don’t question her,” Williams said, impersonating her mother.

Even after her experience of losing her pit bull when it jumped out of the back, she still will allow dogs to ride in the back of the truck.

“I do (worry). I try to drive more cautiously.”