What is the Law in Florida as to Children Riding in the Back of Pick Up Trucks?

Pick Up Truck SafetyFlorida is a big state when it comes to the ownership and operation of pick up trucks.  According to a study conducted in 2011, Florida ranked third behind California and Texas for the most pick up trucks in a state.  It is common to see a pick up truck in virtually evey neighborhood and community especially in rural areas.  Jacksonville and the surrounding areas have a particulary large number of pick up trucks as do other parts of the State.  While a pick up truck can be quite useful, the pick up truck can also be quite dangerous especially when children ride in the back of a pick up truck. Due to the dangers of passengers occupying the back or bed of a pick up truck, the Florida Legislature adopted Section 316.2014 – Florida Statues which provides the following:

316.2015 Unlawful for person to ride on exterior of vehicle.

(1) It is unlawful for any operator of a passenger vehicle to permit any person to ride on the bumper, radiator, fender, hood, top, trunk, or running board of such vehicle when operated upon any street or highway which is maintained by the state, county, or municipality. Any person who violates this subsection shall be cited for a moving violation, punishable as provided in chapter 318.
(2)(a) No person shall ride on any vehicle upon any portion thereof not designed or intended for the use of passengers. This paragraph does not apply to an employee of a fire department, an employee of a governmentally operated solid waste disposal department or a waste disposal service operating pursuant to a contract with a governmental entity, or to a volunteer firefighter when the employee or firefighter is engaged in the necessary discharge of a duty, and does not apply to a person who is being transported in response to an emergency by a public agency or pursuant to the direction or authority of a public agency. This paragraph does not apply to an employee engaged in the necessary discharge of a duty or to a person or persons riding within truck bodies in space intended for merchandise.
(b) It is unlawful for any operator of a pickup truck or flatbed truck to permit a minor child who has not attained 18 years of age to ride upon limited access facilities of the state within the open body of a pickup truck or flatbed truck unless the minor is restrained within the open body in the back of a truck that has been modified to include secure seating and safety restraints to prevent the passenger from being thrown, falling, or jumping from the truck. This paragraph does not apply in a medical emergency if the child is accompanied within the truck by an adult. A county is exempt from this paragraph if the governing body of the county, by majority vote, following a noticed public hearing, votes to exempt the county from this paragraph.
(c) Any person who violates this subsection shall be cited for a nonmoving violation, punishable as provided in chapter 318.
(3) This section shall not apply to a performer engaged in a professional exhibition or person participating in an exhibition or parade, or any such person preparing to participate in such exhibitions or parades.
If an owner or driver of a pick up truck allows a person under the age of 18 to ride in the back of a pick up truck, the driver can be cited with a violation.  Furthermore and more importantly, it is just plain dangerous for a driver to allow passengers to occupy the back of a pick up truck.  Of course, the responsiblity for safety goes beyond the driver.  Passengers should also exercise due care when riding in any vehicle.  As such, a passenger also has a duty to act in a safe and reasonable manner.  In Florida, civil cases are governed by comparative fault. In other words, a case can be decided by apportioning fault between parties to determine the amount and extent of compensation.   In cases involving injuries to a child riding in the back of a pick up truck, it is possible that a jury could assess some fault to the pick up truck driver and some fault to the passengers.   Furthermore, it should be noted that driver of a pick up truck has a duty to drive in a safe and reasonable manner especially if there are passengers in the back or bed of the truck.   Another Florida law that bears mention is the concept that a child under the page of 6 years old cannot as a matter of law be held to be negligent in any way for his or her actions.  With children ages 6 and older, negligence can be assessed against the child based on the age, maturity, knowledge, and actions of the child.
A tragic incident was recently reported in the St. Augustine Shores neighborhood in which two children suffered serious head injuries after falling out of the back of a pick up truck. Each injured passenger was transported to UF Health for emergency care, treatment, and evaluation.  It was reported by the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office that the two injured teen passengers were students at Pedro Menendez High School located in St. Augustine (St. Johns County) Florida.  You can read more about this incident at Two High School Students Suffer Serious Head Injuries – Pick Up Truck Accident in St. Augustine Shores, Florida.
The book – When the Wheels Stop Spinning – Legal Rights of the Injured Child – What Parents Need to Know After the Accident – has chapters on Automobile Accidents, Damages – Compensation, Medical Bills and Insurance, Pedestrian Injuries, Bicycle Injuries, and other topics.  You can get this book for free at When the Wheels Stop Spinning.