RICHMOND – The Virginia state Senate on Tuesday unanimously passed legislation banning so-called Carolina Squat modifications on pick-up trucks and SUVs that have led to at least one traffic fatality in the commonwealth last month.
“There’s apparently a new phenomenon where people are jacking up the front of their trucks and SUVs and putting the rear bumper down. The problem is that these individuals are not able to see over their jacked up hood, and we’ve had deaths in North Carolina and South Carolina, and on Feb. 16 in Virginia,” said Sen. Mark Peake, R-Lynchburg, the bill’s sponsor, referring to an accident in Mecklenburg County that left a 27-year old man dead last month after his car got hit by a modified truck while on his way to work.
Squatting is a new trend that first emerged in California, after hundreds of drivers posted photos of their modified vehicles on the social media platform Instagram. Drivers raise the front of their trucks while simultaneously lowering the back, resulting in a large rake that makes it hard to see the road. The trend is particularly popular in the South, and it was already banned last year in North Carolina.
Peake filed Senate Bill 777 on March 1st after receiving unanimous consent from the Senate, rushing it through the Senate Transportation Committee. On Tuesday, the full Senate waived a third constitutional reading so the measure can head to the House of Delegates for approval before the legislative session wraps this weekend. The bill has an emergency clause, which means that it could become law as soon as Gov. Glenn Youngkin signs it.
Sen. Joe Morrissey, D-Richmond, praised Peake’s last-minute effort on the Senate floor Tuesday. “Real kudos to the senator from Lynchburg, who got the legislation drafted and now we are voting on it within eight or nine days,” he said. “It’s a significant piece of legislation that will prevent accidents.”
Morrissey said that he encountered a squatted truck while driving just recently. “It reminded me of one of those vehicles that I had seen at the Virginia State Fair. You’re sitting in this vehicle and you are staring up towards the north star, you can’t see in front of you, and that’s why these vehicles are having so many accidents. That’s why I appreciate the haste in which the senator from Lynchburg brought this bill to the body,” Morrissey said.
Peake’s bill would make it a misdemeanor to modify the height of the front bumper of a vehicle to be four or more inches greater than the height of the rear bumper and make it a primary offense, allowing law enforcement to initiate a traffic stop.
“We’ve spoken with the state police and currently the laws do not make this a primary offense, so they cannot pull them over, they cannot do anything when they see these things,” Peake said Tuesday.