Last week's crash of a pickup truck carrying 11 young people in Clay County, resulting in the death of a 17-year old girl, brings awareness to the dangers of riding in open truck beds.
Kara Conley of Bomont, who would have been a senior at Clay County High School, was ejected and then pinned underneath the vehicle as it landed on its side in a creek.
It's a shame that a tragedy has to raise this discussion, but it's time that West Virginia lawmakers consider making it illegal for passengers to ride unrestrained in pickup truck beds on public roadways.
West Virginia state law requires front seat passengers to wear a seat belt in a moving vehicle on public roadways. Passengers in the back seat under age 18 must wear seat belts, and children under age 8 must be in an approved safety seat. Yet there is no law to restrict the practice of riders sitting in open truck beds.
There is no guarantee that the existence of a law would have prevented this death, or others in similar situations, but the law could still save some lives. Crash survivor Carter Morton expressed his desire for a change in the law in an interview on WCHS-TV.
West Virginia seat belt use increased from 32 percent to 54 percent in the year after the Legislature passed the seat belt law in 1993. By 2011, West Virginia seat belt usage had risen to 85 percent, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Considering the effect the seat belt law appears to have had on passenger safety, it's time to consider such a law for truck beds.