Carrying Children in a Pickup Bed in North Carolina and the Seat Belt Law

It may be a good idea to keep a copy of this page with the excerpts of the general stature handy in your vehicle just in case somebody isn't up to date and tries to give you a hard time about hauling folks in the back of your truck, especially if you have a military vehicle with the troop seats mounted and in use.

The North Carolina Law on children as passengers in the back comes under NCGS 20-135.2B.  Easiest place to get an understandable version of the various statutes is from the NCDMV Handbook (which is online as are the General Statutes).

I could not find a specific law concerning carrying adults in the back of a pickup but there are some concerning endangerment and public drunkenness that I suspect some law enforcement members would be compelled to exercise on occasion...

The Law on Transporting Children in the Back of a Pick-up Truck in North Carolina
On January 1, 1995, a separate NC law went into effect that prohibits children less than age twelve from riding in the open bed of a pick-up truck. (NCGS 20-135.2B) An open bed or open cargo area is a bed or cargo area without permanent overhead restraining construction. The operator of the vehicle having an open bed or open cargo is responsible for compliance with this law. The statute does, however, contain some exemptions. The provisions for proper securement of children do not apply:

1) If an adult is present in the bed or cargo area of the vehicle and is supervising the child;
2) If the child is secured or restrained by a seatbelt manufactured in compliance with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 208, installed to support a load strength of not less than 5,000 pounds for each belt, and of a type approved by the Commissioner;
3) If an emergency situation exists;
4) If the vehicle is being operated in a parade pursuant to a valid permit;
5) If the vehicle is being operated in an agricultural enterprise; or
6) If the vehicle is being operated in a county which has no incorporated area with a population in excess of 3,500.

Violators are issued tickets and are subject to a fine of $25.00. Violations of this law have been defined as “infractions” and do not incur court costs, driver license points or insurance surcharges.

The following 32 counties are exempt from the “pickup truck” law based on the absence of incorporated areas with populations exceeding 3,500: Alexander, Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Bertie, Camden, Caswell, Cherokee, Clay, Currituck, Duplin, Franklin, Gates, Graham, Green, Hyde, Jackson, Jones, Macon, Madison, Mitchell, Montgomery, Northhampton, Pamlico, Pender, Perquimans, Polk, Swain, Tyrrell, Warren, Yadkin, and Yancey.

The North Carolina Seat Belt Law

The basic General Statute concerning seat belt usage is NCGS 20-135.2A.  There are others that discuss seat belt usage and infractions as they relate to the graduated licensing program for new drivers, requirements for load and anchorage in new vehicles, and other related items.

A basic summary of the code found in the NCDMV Handbook is:
Each front seat occupant who is 16 years of age or older and each driver of a passenger motor vehicle manufactured with seat belts shall have a seat belt properly fastened about his or her body at all times when the vehicle is in forward motion on a street or highway in this state.

Exemptions to the seat belt law:
Persons with verified, physical conditions preventing the use of a seat belt;
Persons with a certified phobia of seat belts;
Rural letter carriers during the performance of work-related duties;
Drivers of certain delivery, commercial and agricultural vehicles (while the vehicles are employed for those purposes);
Drivers of vehicles not required by law to be equipped with seat belts;
Emergency vehicles Exemptions to the child passenger safety law:
Persons tending to a child's personal needs;
Situations where all seating positions equipped with seat belts are occupied;
Vehicles not required by law to be equipped with seat belts.

Comment on State Vehicle Safety Inspections:
The vehicle safety inspection is based upon the equipment that was installed by the manufacturer at the time the vehicle was built or that an individual has since added.  Thus, a stock M37  does not have to have seatbelts or turn signals, but if you have them installed as a personal safety upgrade, they need to be in good functioning condition.


The complete text of all of the North Carolina General Statutes (including the motor vehicle chapter 20) may be found at: