California Motor Vehicle Code 21712
Unlawful Riding and Towing
California vehicle code 21712 makes it illegal for passengers to ride in vehicles or parts of vehicles that are not intended for passengers. It is also illegal to allow passengers to ride in vehicles that you are towing such as boats, jet skis or campers.
You can be cited under vehicle code 21712, whether you are the passenger who is riding where you should not be or you are the driver who is allowing it to happen. If you violate the section you can expect to pay anywhere from $100 to $500 in fines and court costs.
It is illegal to ride in the trunk of a car or allow someone to ride in the trunk of your car. This is unsafe for many reasons. First, there are no safety mechanisms in the trunk to protect your passenger if you are involved in an accident. Second, the exhaust of your vehicle will travel into the trunk, which could cause the passenger to die from carbon monoxide poisoning. Lastly, there is no protection from hot or cold outside temperatures inside the trunk of your car. Your passenger would be totally exposed to the elements.
Never tow a boat, camper, or other recreational vehicle with a passenger inside. The only time a passenger may legally ride inside a boat is when you are launching it on site. Until then, everyone must ride inside the towing truck.
You also are not permitted to pull anyone on a bike, skis, skateboard, or roller skates with your vehicle. This is dangerous to the person you are towing. They have no protection from other cars or from road hazards.
The only exception to this rule is for specially designed fifth wheel campers. If your coach has special safety glass, exits that can open from both the inside and outside in case of an accident, and an intercom system so the passengers can alert the truck driver in emergencies, then passengers may ride inside the coach trailer.
Allowing people or animals to ride in the bed of your pick up truck is also illegal. These laws are described under vehicle codes 23116 and 23117.