Oregon law says it's OK if all of the vehicle's seat belts are in use
Three people, including a 10-year-old child, have died in the mid-valley this month after being thrown from the backs of pickup trucks that rolled over.
But is riding in the back of a pickup illegal? Not necessarily, said Lt. Mark Cotter at the Oregon State Police Albany office.
"There are two separate statutes," Cotter said. "All safety belts need to be in use before anyone can ride in the back.
"So it's not illegal," he said. "There are circumstances where it can happen: You have three seat belts, but you have four people."
Cotter said the law does not limit the number of people who can be in the back of a pickup.
The other statute, he said, prohibits the carrying of anyone under 18 on an external part of a vehicle. The statute does refer to an open pickup bed, but again it applies only if all the seat belts in the pickup are not being used and/or the tailgate is open.
"So if all the seat belts are in use, they're OK," Cotter said.
But would he advise riding in a truck bed? "No, obviously, especially based on current events," he said.
What about dogs? State law does not allow dogs to be carried on any external part of a vehicle including a pickup bed unless the dog is protected by framework or some other device, like a chain or leash. But State Police Lt. Gregg Hastings in Portland said a chain might not suffice if the dog is on a flatbed pickup, because the dog could fall off and be dragged or choked.
The state police investigated a fatal truck rollover June 3 on Highway 226 east of Scio. Jonathan Elliott, 18, of Albany, and four other teens were thrown from the truck when it rolled. Elliott died last week at a Portland hospital.
Elliott's mother, Wanda, said she doesn't think minors should be allowed in a truck bed at all. She acknowledged that her son was 18 and he made his own choice.
"If they're underage and riding in back, I'm completely against it," she said. "People need to be more conscious of the choices and decisions they make. They can alter the events of more than one person's life."
The driver, Justin Clement-Romey, 17, also of Albany, has been charged with driving under the influence of intoxicants and other charges related to the crash.
On Monday, 10-year-old Katelyne Dugan of Sweet Home and 21-year-old Brian Gilbert were killed when they were thrown from a pickup that rolled on a gravel road near Foster Reservoir. The Linn County Sheriff's Office is investigating that crash.
Katelyne's father, Patrick Dugan, 34, lost control of the truck in the sharp curves of the road, according to the sheriff's office. He is in serious condition at Sacred Heart Medical Center in Eugene.