Dear Ace: When I drove home to my Barracks Road estate last Saturday evening, I observed a vast number of pickup trucks full of youngsters heading towards town. The Foxfield revelers were packed like drunken sardines in the backs of these trucks, many of them still drinking Bud Light. How on earth is this legal? —Crazy like a Fox. . .field Sobriety Test
Crazy: Ace assumes that by “drunken youngsters” you mean sophisticated college students—our nation’s future—and by “Bud Light” you mean imported microbrews. Or perhaps Ace is confusing the event you describe with the latest classical music symposium at UVA. In any case, people hanging out of pickup trucks spells bad news for three distinct parties in Charlottesville: overworked EMTs, 12-seater van salesmen, and road kill cleanup crews.
Virginia law states that it’s legal to transport all your peeps in the back of your pickup as long as they remain safely seated in the cargo bed. This rule seemed not to apply to the dozens of Charlottesville denizens in sweat-stained Polo shirts and low-cut sundresses who hung off the sides of their trucks, singing Smashbox songs, two Saturdays ago on their way back to the dorms. But Ace can assume that the drinkers were over 16, which is another stipulation of Section 46.2-1156.1 of the Virginia Code: “No person under sixteen years of age shall be transported in the rear cargo area of any pickup truck on the highways of Virginia.” Unless, of course, the people being transported are part of a parade (and a “parade” of drunken Foxfielders probably doesn’t count), or are crossing a highway to get from one farm to another in the middle of a busy day of farming operations (again, this probably can’t be applied to the race-goers).
How do Virginia’s pickup bed safety laws measure up to the rest of the nation’s? In Connecticut you can ride in the bed of a pickup during “hayrides August through December.” In Georgia you have to be over 18 to ride, presumably because people are smoking cigarettes and reading porn in the cargo bed. In Missouri you can pile the whole extended family in the back if it’s a “family owned truck with insufficient room in the cab for all passengers.” In Wisconsin passengers are allowed for deer hunting, an exception that seems to leave the door wide open for wildlife drive-bys. And in numerous states like Oklahoma, Alaska, Delaware, and South Dakota, there is no state law. Perhaps that’s where some of these Foxfield hooligans came from.
You can ask Ace yourself. Intrepid investigative reporter Ace Atkins has been chasing readers’ leads for 20 years. If you have a question for Ace, e-mail it to firstname.lastname@example.org.