RICHMOND – The state Senate is set to vote Tuesday on legislation that would ban an eye-catching truck modification that has led to at least one road fatality in Virginia recently. Senate Bill 777, sponsored by Sen. Mark Peake, R-Lynchburg, would regulate the so-called Carolina Squat, an uncanny trend where truck owners modify the suspension of their vehicle so the front is pointing towards the sky and the rear end is pointing downward.
“This is a new fad, we see it more and more, and it is dangerous because the driver can’t see what’s in front of them,” Peake said in an interview Monday.
The trend was born not in the Carolinas but out of Baja Racing in California, after hundreds of drivers posted photos of their squatting vehicles on the social media platform Instagram. It has since caught on across the country, especially in the Southern states, where pickup trucks are often seen as status symbols.
Peake said that he decided to file his legislation March 1, after hearing about a “horrible crash” in Mecklenburg County that left a 27-year old man dead after his car got hit by a modified truck while on his way to work on Feb. 16.
According to a report on WJHL-TV, Jody “BJ” Upton Jr. was traveling on Skipwith Road when his 2005 Chevy pickup was struck by another Chevy truck that had been “squatted.” “The other driver’s hood possibly blocked their vision as it went over a hill, and because they couldn’t see the lane they struck the other vehicle head-on and killed the driver,” Peake said.
Squatters raise the front of their trucks while simultaneously lowering the back, resulting in a large rake. Some even try to fit the biggest wheels and tires possible on their vehicle for added squat effect. The trend began as a way to shift a truck’s weight away from the engine.
Because the Jan. 21 filing deadline for new legislation during the 2022 legislative session had long passed, Peake sought unanimous consent from the Senate before introducing his proposal. SB 777 would ban vehicles from public highways if the suspension, frame, or chassis has been modified to cause the height of the front bumper to be four or more inches greater than the height of the rear bumper.
The modification is already prohibited in North Carolina, where Gov. Roy Cooper signed legislation in August after an online petition seeking to outlaw the squatting of pickup trucks and SUVs drew tens of thousands of signatures last year. A similar proposal is also being weighed by the state legislature in South Carolina.
In Virginia, current law prohibits state police from stopping squatted vehicles over this modification because the latter is not a primary offense. Peake’s proposal would change that; it cleared the Senate Transportation Committee by a unanimous vote last week.
Peake hopes that the Senate will approve the measure on Tuesday, so it would move to the House of Delegates next. “We put the emergency clause on it, which means the new law could go into effect as soon as the governor signs it,” he said.