Children can ride in the backs of pickups if they're in Fourth of July parades but they no longer can ride there on casual trips about town or around the lake.
An amendment to Kansas' Child Passenger Safety Law, informally dubbed the "Unlawful Riding on a Vehicle" amendment, went into effect Wednesday. It prohibits children under the age of 14 from riding in a truck bed or on any part of a vehicle not specifically meant for passsengers.
Area law enforcement officials said it isn't uncommon to see young passengers riding in pickup beds, especially around recreational lakes, but most said they'd warn violators of the danger and inform them of the new law for a time before issuing citations.
KERRI EBERT of the Kansas Safety Belt Education Office, part of Cooperative Extension Service at Kansas State University, said that to be in violation of the law, trucks carrying children in the back must be operated within city limits or on Kansas, U.S., or Interstate highways. County and township roads remain exempt.
A special exemption does allow under age children to ride in the beds of or on authorized vehicles operated in parades, caravans or exhibitions, she added.
The legislation was passed during the 1992 session and signed by Gov. Joan Finney in May.
Rep. Sandy Praeger, R-Lawrence, was among those who worked for its passage. This week, she said the proposal proved difficult and controversial, even though a Wellington man fell out of a pickup and was killed during the course of the debate.
THE LEGISLATION failed the first time lawmakers voted on it, she noted, then was brought back to the floor with the assistance of Rep. John Solbach, D-Lawrence, and passed as a floor amendment to the Child Passenger Safety law.
"It seemed ludicrous," she said, to amend that law to require that children riding in truck cabs wear seat belts or be in safety seats but then let them continue to ride in truck beds with no protection.
Praeger referred to another new amendment to the child passenger safety law that included trucks for the first time in its provisions.
Ebert, of the Buckle Up Kansas office, said that particular amendment requires all children under the age of 14 riding in trucks of 12,000 pounds or less and in farm trucks of 16,000 pounds or less, to be protected by safety belts.
For children up to age 4, she said, that means riding in a certified child safety seat. Those 4 to 14 must use one of the vehicle's safety belts.
THE LAW APPLIES to front and back seat passengers, regardless of seating position, she said, and drivers can be cited regardless of whether or not they are related to the unrestrained passenger.
Fine for violating the child passenger safety law also was increased, from $10 to $20.
Although drivers can be stopped and cited without committing any other violation, most area law enforcement officials said they planned a grace period.
Lt. Mike Reeves at the Lawrence Police Department said that with any new law, his department usually allowed a warning period of two to three weeks. During that time, violators are informed of their offense but not cited.
But, he said, that policy wasn't "written in stone" and a lot depended on the frequency and seriousness of the violation.
LEAVENWORTH County Sheriff Terry Campbell also said with any new law, his officers gave a period of learning and education to the public. Violators are stopped, he said, and advised of the danger and of the new law without being cited.
After 60 to 90 days, though, Leavenworth County sheriff's officers will issue citations.
In Jefferson County, Sheriff Roy Dunnaway said his force also would issue warnings first. "They (violators) are stopped," he said, but no decision has been made yet on when to start issuing tickets.
IN FRANKLIN County, Sheriff Rex Bowling couldn't be reached for comment, but people interested in more information on how that department will deal with violators can call the Franklin County Sheriff's Department at 1-242-3800.
Kansas Highway Patrol Capt. Bob Griffin in Topeka said at this point, no agencywide enforcement policy was in place, "so citations initially will be on an `officer discretion' basis."
He said it wasn't unusual to see children riding in the backs of pickups.
Ebert said all 50 states and the District of Columbia now had child passenger safety belt laws but Kansas' law is one of the most comprehensive
Many states, she said, require that children have safety restraints of some kind only until age 4, but Kansas' law offers protection until children are 14.
"BELT USE HAS been increasing steadily" though, Ebert added. She said since 1983, national figures estimated 60,000 lives had been saved by seat belts.
Studies also show safety seats for children up to 4 years old were 71 percent effective in preventing fatalities, she said, and last year the government documented 225 children 4 and younger who were saved by the seats nationwide.