When driving a truck, certain scenarios might warrant you to leave your tailgate open. While that might seem like a harmless action, there are states with laws that actively punish driving with your tailgate open. Depending on your state, is it legal and safe to drive with an open tailgate?
You can drive with an open tailgate in most states in the US. However, states like Texas, Kansas, New Jersey, etc., might penalize you for driving with your tailgate down. With some of the safety concerns associated with an open tailgate, the act is not very enticing.
In this article, you’ll learn how to manage your tailgate when driving a truck. In addition to outlining the potential risks of driving with an open tailgate, you’ll also learn if your specific state laws allow you to keep your tailgate down during a cruise.
Why Do Some People Drive with their Tailgates Down?
Before getting into the specifics of the legality of driving your truck without closing the tailgate, it’s important to learn why some people drive with their tailgates open. There is no single reason for all cases, but the most reasonable conclusion is that it helps save gas, and that has been debunked.
It’s common knowledge that air drag can make your vehicle consume a lot of gas for the same mileage. Most people believe that when the tailgate is up, it blocks moving air and creates drag, causing their trucks to consume more gas.
This myth is hard to believe, as you’d doubt that truck manufacturer will intentionally add a feature that will cause your vehicle to consume gas. However, due to the backing with a scientific theory, it looks so credible and believable.
In actuality, driving with your tailgates down will consume even more gas than leaving it up. Truck manufacturers have since found a way to deflect the air drag using a vortex effect, helping to save gas, even with the tailgate down.
The only time when you can justify leaving your tailgate down is when you’re carrying more load than can fit easily in your truck. In this situation, your truck will consume more gas than usual, but it’s the price to pay for overloading.
Is It Legal to Drive with Your Tailgate Down
The legality of driving with your truck’s tailgate down depends on what state you live in. Some states allow cars and trucks to leave their tailgates and hatches open, while you may be penalized in some other states.
However, most of the states having regulations against driving with an open tailgate will happily let you drive with your tailgate down as long as you’re carrying enough load that warrants it.
Before doing anything weird to your tailgate, it’s important to review the laws of your state to confirm if you’re allowed to do it legally. If your state forbids this practice, you may be tried for dangerous driving if you drive with an open tailgate.
This crime carries punishments ranging from hefty fines to imprisonment terms, and in some cases, both.
Some of the states with the strictest regulations regarding tailgates with trucks include Texas, New Jersey, Nebraska, Maryland, Minnesota, and Kansas. If you’re in any of these states, you may want to have in-depth knowledge of the laws before trying to keep your tailgate down.
Is It Safe to Drive with Tailgate Down?
The question of legality is a different issue from that of safety. If it’s pretty unsafe to drive without your tailgates securely in place, you don’t need any government legislations to always keep the tailgate up; after all, your life matters more than anything else.
There are some safety concerns associated with driving with open tailgates, especially if you’re driving a truck. While some of these pose threats to life, most can only destroy property at worst.
Here are some of the reasons why it might be unsafe to drive with your truck’s tailgate down.
1. Loss and damage of goods
Your tailgate is there for a reason, and the reason is pretty obvious: to hold down the items you carry in your trunk. While you might try to improvise the function of the tailgate, you can’t do it quite as well as a dedicated tailgate.
When you pack so much load that you need to keep your tailgate open, maybe you should consider conveying it in two shipments. If you’re driving with a truckload of goods and an open tailgate, it’s only logical that some of those goods will fall off.
Another downside is how difficult it is to tell if something is already falling off. If you’re not careful, you may drive the truck to its destination, only to discover that all the goods you were carrying fell off along the way.
2. Loss or damage of the tailgate
The goods you’re carrying aren’t the only things at the risk of falling to damage during your drive. When the tailgate is open, it will shake significantly throughout the ride, increasing the chances of it falling off too.
Also, there are legitimate cases of people losing their open tailgates. An open tailgate makes it a tad easier to remove the tailgate from your truck if you’re away for some time.
If you’re in California, you may want to always make sure that your tailgate is securely locked in before driving out of your apartment. Most tailgate thefts happen in California, and that’s logical, as most of the trucks in the United States are in California.
Can I Drive with My Tailgate Open?
For most states in the United States, driving with your tailgate open is entirely the choice of the driver. There are usually no laws restricting you from keeping your tailgate open all day while you cruise across the streets of your state.
However, states like Arkansas, Texas, and Minnesota all have existing legislations that make it mandatory to keep your tailgates up unless you’re carrying an excessive load. You should try reviewing what your state’s traffic laws say about tailgates before attempting anything that might be illegal.
Because driving with an open tailgate might be damaging to your properties and the truck’s tailgate itself, you might want to hold off on putting those excess loads behind your truck.