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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Ride 'em in the Back of Your Camper?

In an RV users' forum, a member mentioned he carried children in his truck camper. This set off a firestorm of commentary regarding the safety of carrying passengers in truck mounted campers. Most readers were pretty adamant about the subject, on one side or the other. Viewpoints exchanged ran the gamut of "protecting the lives of children," to avoiding the scourge of "allowing Big Brother to dictate our every move."

One interesting point made was more visual than loquacious--and it spoke volumes:

We can really muddy up the discussion by bringing in pertinent state law. Among the comments posted by forum goers were two different web sites, each purporting to answer the question: "Is it legal" on a state-by-state basis. The results weren't particularly satisfactory. One site indicated most states didn't specifically comment on the issue; the other said "Yes" it was OK to ride in a truck camper--perhaps not commenting means OK.

We asked our consulting Arizona DPS officer his opinion. Would he cite a truck camper user for allowing children to ride in the back of a truck camper? He initially said yes, and cited a relevant Arizona statute. But on closer examination, we found the statute specifically exempted "recreational vehicles" from the mandatory child seatbelt law, and by the state's own definition, truck campers are indeed, recreational vehicles.

But let's get down to brass tacks: Just how smart is it to carry any passenger, child or adult, in a truck camper? Truck campers admittedly have a fairly high center of gravity, and as cautious as a TC driver might be, you can't always "watch out of the other guy." T-boned in a highway intersection could easily spell a rollover situation. No, the camper might not disintigrate like the one in the photo, but passengers, bounced around like so many peas in a can, will certainly suffer plenty of bumps and bruises, if not death itself.

And tell me, when was the last time you saw a truck camper roll off the assembly line equipped with seatbelts? Airbags? Crumple zones?

We'd love to hear your comments.

image: mooney on


  1. The parents of the kids who died of carbon monoxide poisoning while riding in a pickup camper a few years ago in northeastern Wisconsin certainly wish they hadn't allowed their children to ride there. CO can easily come up from the exhaust into a camper.

  2. I do not have a TC, but do let the family ride in the back of our "C" motorhome. The photo in the article showed a trashed TC..and I'm sure the same could happen with a MH in a similar accident. No body is really safe, if the accident is bad enough!

    If the TC is attached properly, and care is used while driving, I believe that the riders are just as safe in the back.


  3. As a retired firefighter and owner of a class C motorhome I can make this statement: I don't want to be in ANY recreational vehicle in the event of an accident. Oddly enough the converted school buses may be the safest as far as the shell staying intact in an accident. The same would be true in a fire, most RVs go up in flames like the old trailer homes.

  4. An accident abut 15 years ago on Highway 2, heading up towards Stevens Pass in Washington sure convinced me it's a dumb idea.

    An eastbound F-350 with a big slide-in was headed eastbound when an elk came bounding out of the brush on the righthand side of the road. The pick-up driver swerved (it was a big elk!) and the rig rolled over.

    The three kids were watching the scenery go by, lying on the over-cab bed. As the rig fell on its side, it slid across the centerline and was hit by a logging truck going the other way. All three kids and their mom were killed at the scene. The dad, who was driving was seriously injured and I think subsequently died of his injuries.

    Even current trucks don't have any better suspension for high-cg loads. I've only ridden in TCs a coouple of times and they scare me to death.

  5. Having Ridden "Loose" in truck campers as a kid and "Loose" in a Motorhome as an adult, can someone explain the difference to me?

    MH's have a higher center of gravity and can roll over if T-Boned and can disintigrate as well.

    MH's also usually only have seat belts at the drivers and passenger's seat with no Seat belts anywhere else so most kids ride 'loose' in them (as they do in teh school bus as well)

    Being safe is great but there are times when you can get rediculous as well.

    As for carbon monoxide poisening? Again, that can easily occur in a MH as well as a TC if conditions are right, so do we stop driving and riding in MH's?

    As Pappappy pointed out, in reality if the accident is a bad one, no one is really safe in any form of RV.

  6. My younger brother and I rode in the back of dads PU camper all the time, and at last check, we are both still alive and in our 50's.

  7. I remember, as a teen in the mid 70's, riding to Santa Cruz in a TC with my best friend and her parents. At no time would my best friend's parents (who loved me as if I were one of theirs) would let me be in any type of danger. It was pretty cool, but the mountain pass we had to go through to get there could be dangerous in it's own right. It's the adult's responsibility to decide what is safe for the passenger. With hightened awareness of personal safety, mandatory use of seatbelts and child seats, I don't know how I ever survived riding on the engine box of my parents old '66 Dodge van or as an infant being held by my mother in the front seat of the old Falcon.