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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, May 20, 2010

Big Isle council rejects resolution seeking ban on truck-bed riders

By Nancy Cook Lauer
Stephens Media

HILO Saying pickup trucks are some families' only mode of transportation, the Hawaii County Council yesterday rejected a resolution aimed at keeping passengers from riding in open truck beds.

The nonbinding resolution would have "strongly urged" the state Legislature to prohibit the practice and encouraged other county councils to sign on to the effort.

North Kona Councilman Kelly Greenwell, who sponsored the resolution, called it "absurd" that people in the cab of the pickup are required to wear seat belts, but passengers can ride freely in the bed.

Current state law allows that no one younger than 13 may ride in the bed of an open truck, except during a life-threatening emergency or special occasion, such as a parade.

"There's absolutely no way we as a council, as policymakers, can avoid the issue of trying to adjust our behavior to try to prevent injuries and deaths," said Kohala Councilman Pete Hoffmann, the only other proponent in the 2-7 defeat.

The council has already outlawed driving while using a hand-held cell phone or other mobile electronic device and smoking in a car occupied by anyone younger than 18.

"We got into this with seat belts. We went into cars with cell phones. We just went into cars with the smoking ban," said Ka'u Councilman Guy Enriques. "And now we're going into cars with this particular situation. The feedback I'm getting is, where will we stop?"

Other council members worried about what families who owned a pickup truck as their only vehicle would do in this rural county.

Hamakua Councilman Dominic Yagong said he doesn't let his children ride in the back of pickup trucks, but he understands why other families do. He said he personally favors the resolution, but he has to listen to his constituents.

"Some people, this is the only vehicle they do have," Yagong said, "whether it's safe or not, that's the only vehicle they have."

That didn't satisfy Greenwell.

"In our position," said Greenwell, "safety has to trump popularity."