Family seeks change in law after son's death
Published: Tuesday, February 12, 2013 at 3:47 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, February 12, 2013 at 3:47 p.m.
OCALA - Dunnellon High School sophomore Kyle Lay died Jan. 4 doing a legal but potentially lethal thing — riding in the open bed of a pickup truck.
Kyle, 17, an ROTC member who wanted to join the U.S. Army Military Police, was killed when the 1990 Ranger in which he was riding in the bed as it headed north on Southwest 95th Circle collided with a 2013 Equinox that pulled onto the roadway from Southwest 93rd Court Road.
Kyle was thrown from the bed of the Ranger and his body struck a tree on the northwest side of the intersection. Three occupants inside the truck walked away from the crash.
Authorities said speed was not a factor.
Kyle's mother, Tonya Lay, 38, and her fiance, David Stone, 36, who Kyle had already begun calling Dad even before the couple planned to marry, want to start a movement in the state to ban riding in open beds of pickups. They also want to see changes at what they feel is a dangerous intersection.
“We don't want anyone else to go through this. We want to raise awareness,” said Stone as he sat with Tonya Lay recently at the IHOP restaurant where she works, which is located on west State Road 200, just a stone's throw from the crash site
Stone said that on the Friday of the collision, Kyle had gotten off the school bus about 4:40 p.m. and walked the few minutes to the family's home.
“I heard the kids and saw him hop in the bed of the truck, but I thought he was just going down the block. He knew not to ride in the back. I would've hollered, but he was gone, and they normally stay on the dirt roads,” Stone said.
Stone speculated the four friends in the truck may have been headed to a nearby auto parts store.
By about 7:45 p.m., Kyle's family began to grow concerned and then a call came from the hospital.
“We went to the hospital and were taken around to a side entrance. Then the doctor came in and said, ‘We tried everything ... ' And our lives stopped,” Stone said.
Stone said he gets different interpretations of the law regarding riding in a pickup bed based on which agency and “who you ask.”
Ric Ridgway, chief assistant state attorney for District 5, clarified the current statute in an email: “There is no prohibition to ride in the open bed of a pickup truck, except ... children under 5 and persons under 18 on an Interstate.
“The general prohibition of riding on the outside of a vehicle does not apply to the bed of a pickup truck. Only the prohibition on riding in the open bed of a pickup truck on limited access highways by persons under the age of 18 applies. (Note, the Legislature gave the counties the ability to even do away with this prohibition.)” Ridgway wrote.
Local officials said the only “limited access” highway in the Marion County area is I-75.
Open pickup bed passengers are even exempt from Florida's seat belt requirements.
“It's my interpretation of the statutes that the seatbelt provision does not apply to the open bed of a pickup truck. (It does appear the child seat provision does apply, however.)” Ridgway wrote.
According to the website for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 30 states have some type of law regarding pickup bed passengers while 20 have no statutes.
The National Highway and Traffic and Safety Administration website states that in 2000, 15 states participated in promoting a campaign called “Kids Aren't Cargo.”
Stone and Lay have begun their own initiative called “Truck Beds Are For ... Kargo not Kids.” The “k” in “kargo” was a deliberate nod to the “k” in Kyle, Stone said.
Stone and Lay have begun raising funds to purchase bumper stickers and T-shirts bearing the wording as they call for support of a ban on truck-bed riders.
“We are going to be diligent in this effort, and welcome any support,” Stone said.
Meanwhile, a survey is under way to study Southwest 95th Circle, a privately owned road, at Southwest 93rd Court Road “to evaluate magnitude of the concerns and contact the owner, who is responsible for maintenance and improvements” according to Marion County Traffic engineer Bart Ciambella.
Information provided by the county indicates that the owner of the road is Marion Center. The only Florida corporation found containing those words was Marion Center Inc. Voicemails left with two listed contact numbers produced no response.
Employees at the Soapy's Car Wash on the northeast corner of the intersection have a clear view of Southwest 95th Circle, which is a long four-lane road that connects County Road 484 at the south to SR 200 at the north, with stop signs at the Southwest 93rd Court Road intersection for traffic entering from Walmart on one side and several businesses on the other. There is an opening in the median at the crossover.
“I would say the crashes here have a lot to do with poor drivers,” said Soapy's manager Mister Gonzalez, who has been at the location for about a year.
Employee Darrell Roberts, 23, said there are a “lot of accidents” at the intersection.
“They need a traffic control light there,” Roberts said.
Roberts heard the sound of the collision that claimed Kyle Lay's life and ran to the site to offer help.
Elissa Schee said she would like to talk with Kyle's family and offer any help she can. Her daughter, Margay Schee, 13, died in 2008 when a tractor-trailer slammed into the rear of her stopped school bus near Citra.
One factor cited in the crash was cellphone distraction. Since then, Schee has been an outspoken critic of distracted driving and has appeared on Oprah and recently was a speaker at a national conference held in Tampa.
“They have a long road ahead of them,” Schee said of Stone and Lay's efforts to effect change in the traffic laws. “There is power in numbers. I would suggest they have faith, join a group and keep focusing attention on the issue.”
For more information about “Truck Beds Are For ... Kargo not Kids,” call David Stone at 274-1536 or search for that slogan on Facebook.
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