Bill advances to restrict kids riding in the back of pickup trucks - East Valley Tribune: Arizona

Bill advances to restrict kids riding in the back of pickup trucks

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Posted: Thursday, February 3, 2011 12:58 pm | Updated: 8:46 am, Sat Feb 5, 2011.

Over objections of legislating common sense, a House panel agreed Thursday to restrict kids riding in the back of pickup trucks.

But the measure had to be heavily amended even to get the 5-3 vote by the Transportation Committee to advance it to the full House. And even with all that, there is no guarantee that lawmakers, after two decades of unsuccessful efforts to enact such restrictions, are ready to do so now.

On paper, HB 2089 says it is illegal for a child to travel in the open bed of a pickup truck.

But there are a host of exceptions.

Just to get the measure to the committee, Rep. Matt Heinz, D-Tucson, had to agree that its provisions would not apply on private lands, Indian reservations or on any road with a posted speed limit of 35 miles an hour or less.

Even that, however, was not enough.

On Thursday, Heinz agreed to two more loopholes.

One says that if there are seats installed in the pickup bed and the child is belted in, then there is no violation.

Of greater concern to some, though, is the other change: It says there is no violation if a child is wearing a helmet.

That annoyed Rep. Eric Meyer, D-Paradise Valley, an emergency room doctor.

"I'm just picturing a 3-year-old with a big motorcycle helmet on flying out of a truck," he said. Meyer said, though, he had to accept the change because it's "what it takes to get the bill passed."

That change was enough to convince Rep. Jerry Weiers, R-Glendale, to drop his opposition to the plan. He said his own experience as a motorcycle rider - where children are allowed to ride with helmets - convinces him that the new provision will make it a bit safer when people allow their kids to be in the back of pickup trucks.

"All the laws in the world will never stop people from doing stupid things," Weiers said.

Even with those changes, though, some legislators remained unconvinced a new law is needed.

"Our state constitution says that the duty of government is to maintain and protect the rights of the individual," said Rep. Rick Gray, R-Sun City. "Here, we are impacting the rights of an individual."

Gray also noted that some of the people who testified told of personal experiences where a child or a friend was killed after being ejected from a pickup truck, but at low speeds. He said this measure, with its 35 mph exception, would not have saved their lives anyway.

"We cannot legislate away stupid," he said.

Rep. Steve Farley, D-Tucson, conceded the point. But he said sometimes laws are necessary to stop people from doing stupid things, like driving drunk.

"You have to start somewhere," he said of the legislation. And, if nothing else, Farley said the change in law will become part of driver education courses "so that when new drivers start to find out what is and isn't allowed, they find out you can't put your friends in the back of the pickup truck."

Rep. Karen Fann, R-Prescott, said she understands that sometimes legislators need to enact laws to force people to use common sense.

"But to what degree?" she asked. "If we do that we would have so many laws on the books that we would be overwhelmed. I think we've come to a point where we are legislating really stupid and really bad common sense."

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