Resort’s Proposed Pickup Law Heads To Council

OCEAN CITY – An ordinance to outlaw passengers from riding in the unenclosed area of motor vehicles without a seatbelt in Ocean City is trucking along to the Mayor and City Council for approval.
A proposed ordinance will amend a Chapter of the Town of Ocean City Code under the division titled “Seat Belts” by adding a section titled, “Passengers in unenclosed areas of motor vehicles.”
A “motor vehicle” is defined as a Class A that passenger cars and station wagons, Class E that is a truck, and Class M that is a multipurpose passenger vehicle, as defined in the Transportation Article of the State Code. Motor vehicle includes any gloat or trailer towed, pulled or powered by a motor vehicle.
The ordinance furthers, “a person may not ride or allow another person to ride in the unenclosed areas of a motor vehicle except in a seat and with a seat belt in use.”
Exemptions include passengers in municipal sanctioned or approved parades during the parade and in the parade route, federal, state, county and municipal emergency vehicles, and municipal vehicles during the course of municipal duties.
The penalty for violation is punishable as a municipal infraction by a fine of not more than $250.
The concept of the law was first introduced to the Police Commission in October. According to OCPD Lt. Scott Harner, on Oct. 1 the state enacted several laws to increase seatbelt usage by expanding the requirements under the law and proposed an ordinance to enact in Ocean City where passengers would be prohibited to ride in the unenclosed portion of a vehicle, such as the bed of pickup trucks.
“In my tenure here, I have witnessed an increase of people in unenclosed areas of vehicles. I have a great concern for people in the unenclosed portions of vehicles as they travel down Coastal Hwy,” Harner said at that time. “I have seen people standing up in unenclosed portions of vehicles, people sitting on the side rails of vehicles, people sitting in lawn chairs in unenclosed portions of vehicles. I don’t think it takes a collision reconstructionist to imagine the likelihood of not only what would happen to them in a crash but at 40 miles per hour if that vehicle comes to a sudden stop.”
Maryland State’s seat belt law states, “Seat belts required for driver and all passengers age 16 and older. Violation of the seat belt law in the backseat is a secondary offense. Other violations of the seat belt law are standard offenses. Riding in the cargo area of a pickup truck is not permitted form persons under age 16 if the vehicle is traveling more than 25 mph; proper child restraints are still required; some other exceptions apply.”
According to the State Highway Administration (SHA), some jurisdictions, such as Anne Arundel County, have local ordinances that prohibit anyone from riding in the bed of an unenclosed pickup truck. Anne Arundel County’s law came into effect following an accident in 1979 when 10 teens riding in the back of a pickup truck were killed in Gambrills.
Under Section 90 of Anne Arundel County Code titled, Passengers in unenclosed areas of motor vehicles, states, “It shall be unlawful for a person to ride in or allow another person to ride in an unenclosed area of a motor vehicle except in a seat with a seat belt in use. The penalty upon violation is punishable by a fine of $50.”
The Police Commission was in consensus to have City Solicitor Guy Ayres review the proposed ordinance to have a final draft return to the commission before moving the action item forward to the full Mayor and City Council for a final decision.
This week the commission received the revised ordinance from Ayres who made a few minor clerical changes. The commission agreed to move it forward to the full Mayor and City Council for approval. The ordinance will be introduced Dec. 16.