California has laws regulating seatbelts and child restraints but also rules regulating where passengers can ride in a vehicle. This article explains when a passenger or pet can ride in the bed of a pickup truck and the penalties for violations.
California's seatbelt laws require all passengers to be restrained by a seatbelt or child safety seat. Passengers are also prohibited from riding in any vehicle area "not designed or intended for the use of passengers," including the vehicle trunk. Passengers are permitted to ride in the back of a pickup or flatbed truck only if the truck bed includes a federally-approved restraint system.
Permitting a passenger to unlawfully ride in the bed of a pickup truck carries a $100 fine for either the driver or passenger. A second offense within a year results in a $200 fine, and a third offense within a year carries a $250 fine.
Exceptions to the normal rules exist for parades, team drivers occupying a sleeper birth, and farmers traveling between fields.
California also has regulations for when animals can ride outside of the passenger area of a vehicle. Any animal in the bed of the truck must be safely cross-tethered or enclosed using a kennel, hardtop, or tail racks at least 46 inches tall.
The American Veterinary Medical Association recommends that pets be secured either in a kennel in the truck bed or by a harness inside the cab.
A violation of the pet restraint rules results in a $50 to $100 fine for a first offense, a $75 to $200 fine for a second offense, and a $100 to $250 fine for a third offense within a one-year period.
The pet rules don't apply to farm dogs and livestock.