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Bill to ban children from truck beds resurfaces after three deaths in past months

While attempts to bar minors from riding unrestrained in pickup truck beds have failed for years at the Legislature, state leaders have three new reasons to act, a lawmaker said Thursday.

They are teenagers killed in accidents that ejected them from truck beds, Rep. Doris Goodale, R–Kingman, told the House Transportation Committee.

“The loss of three young men in the past eight months because they were riding in trucks really oversteps the ability to ignore this situation any longer,” she said.

Goodale is the author of HB 2224, which would have Arizona join 30 states – and the District of Columbia – with bans.

The committee endorsed the bill on a 6–1 vote, with one abstention.

The bill, which applies only to state highways, would require minors to be properly restrained by a lap belt when riding in the cargo area of a pickup truck.

It would exempt vehicles driving slower than 35 mph, transporting passengers in emergencies or operating on private property, American Indian reservations or farmland.

Dr. David Notrica, president of Arizona Trauma and Acute Care Consortium, told the committee that a ban would save lives.

“When we talk about injury, one of the things that is such a severe risk factor for being badly injured is being ejected from a vehicle, and there’s no easier way to be ejected than being in the back of a pickup truck,” Notrica said in an interview afterward.

Goodale said she took on the issue because the son of a constituent died from injuries suffered when he was ejected from a pickup truck bed.

The Legislature has considered similar legislation as far back as the 1990s. In 1998, a bill reached then–Gov. Jane Hull, who vetoed it.

The most common argument against such a law is that parents, not government, should make decisions about their children’s safety, Goodale said, but she noted that accidents often involve teenagers making their own decisions.

“What 16–year–old does not think they’re invincible?” she said.

Rep. Steve Farley, D–Tucson, who voted in favor of the bill, noted that government research shows that the risk of dying is substantially higher for those who ride in cargo areas.

“I think this is another one of those cases where it’s past time that we do this,” he said.

Rep. Rick Gray, R–Sun City, said he voted against the measure because it doesn’t include adults or apply on Indian reservations.

In an interview, Goodale said the real concern is kids in vehicles traveling at recklessly high speeds.

“If it’s a law, at least the police can stop these kids,” she said.

HB 2224 facts:

• Author: Rep. Doris Goodale, R-Kingman.
• Provision: Would prohibit drivers on state highways from carrying passengers under age 18 in a vehicle’s open compartment unless they are safely restrained by a lap belt.
• Exceptions: Emergency vehicles, emergency responses, organized parades, driving on private property and American Indian reservations, driving on farms.
• Status: Passed House Transportation Committee.

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