As the weather starts to warm up, parents have begun to truck over to me to ask if it’s okay for their children to ride in the back of pickup truck. I’ll try to pick up the pieces on this one and provide some safety information on children and pickup trucks.
Almost 20 percent of the registered motor vehicles in this country are pickup trucks. Three-quarters of these trucks are being used for personal transportation. Despite their widespread use, proper restraints for children riding in trucks are far less than those for other passenger vehicles.
Children who ride in the back of these trucks experience the most life threatening and serious injuries compared to children injured riding in the cab, especially when these injuries occur in non-crash events, such as with a sudden stop, turn, swerve, loss of balance or an intentional or unintentional jump or fall.
If you want to prevent injuries and accidents from occurring in these vehicles, here are some suggestions:
- Children should be prohibited from riding in the back of a pickup truck. Even an enclosed truck bed (or cargo area) can be a problem, since it can collect carbon monoxide, which can be life-threatening to the person breathing it.
- Age-appropriate restraints should be used in trucks. Safety seats should also be checked to make sure they are compatible with the truck’s seats.
- If the truck has an extended cab with a rear seat, many of these are shorter-bench or side-facing back seats and will not fit car safety seats.
- If there is no back seat to place a rear-facing infant seat or the back seat is incompatible with the safety seat, the front seat will have to be used. Make sure it is compatible and the airbag device is turned off since these can seriously hurt infants if they go off.
- Teenagers need to be made aware of the dangers of the cargo area as well, so they do not ride or transport others in that part of the pickup truck when they are driving.
Hopefully, tips like this will allow you to keep on trucking for a safe trip down the road the next time you want to travel with your children in a pickup truck.
Lewis First, MD, is chief of Pediatrics at The University of Vermont Children’s Hospital and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the Robert Larner, M.D. College of Medicine at the University of Vermont. You can also catch “First with Kids” weekly on WOKO 98.9FM and WPTZ Channel 5, or visit the First with Kids video archives at www.UVMHealth.org/MedCenterFirstWithKids.