dear Street Smart:
Why doesn't the "seat belt law" pertain to passengers in an open-bed truck? Dogs, by law, are required to be tethered in the bed of a truck. I think that riding in open-bed trucks should be banned.
Nancy Flannery Dworzak
While you are 100% right about Fido, you are only half right about humans.
For people under the age of 18, it is illegal to ride in a truck bed. But dogs of all ages can go for a windy spin in the back of a truck as long as they are restrained by a leash.
In Sacramento, however, change is in the air. Legislation has been introduced that would prohibit carrying people of all ages in a truck bed. If the proposal passes muster with lawmakers this political season, it would go into effect Jan. 1, 1991.
John Stevens, a consultant to the Assembly Transportation Commission, said the bill appears to have a good chance. "I can't imagine who would oppose it," Stevens said. "The only possibility might be elements of the agriculture industry who might be upset because workers would be restricted from riding in pickup beds."
Dear Street Smart:
Why doesn't California law require rear bumpers on cars and trucks? Extensive damage results when one car rear ends another and bumpers are missing. So many "stylized," overpriced foreign pickups and sports cars are extremely vulnerable without bumper protection.
James C. Buchanan
Vulnerable they are. And in the case of cars, it's also illegal to hit the highway without front and rear bumpers.
California law requires every car on the road, be it a Ford or a Ferrari, to wear protection on both ends. A bumper is, by law, defined as a protective device designed and manufactured by the car maker. In other words, the car has to be outfitted with bumpers from the day it leaves the show room.
Occasionally, a car that appears to have no bumper may actually be properly outfitted. With the emphasis these days on round curves and aerodynamic profiles, many of today's sleek sports cars merely look like they're missing a bumper--the thing is so well molded in plastic that it hardly looks like the old chrome-colossus of yore.
Some drivers, however, do pull off the bumper for style reasons. These scofflaws not only risk getting a ticket but also could be putting themselves in a testy position with their insurance company.
Trucks are a different animal entirely. Under the law, a pickup truck is exempted from bumper requirements (as are motorcycles, 4-wheel-drive vehicles, big-rig trucks and recreational vehicles).
Part of the reason pickups have been lumped in with big rigs may have to do with history, according to Gary Quinliven of the state Department of Motor Vehicles in Sacramento.
Since the state last amended the bumper law in 1975, the use of pickups has changed. In the past, the vehicles were often used for construction work and other utilitarian purposes. The hard-bodied machines of today often end up ferrying more freeway commuters than bricks and tools.
The only way to change the bumper rule for pickups would be to take up the issue with the state Legislature. A carefully written letter expressing your thoughts can, believe it or not, make a difference. A good starting point might be your local legislator or either the state Senate or Assembly transportation committees.