Pickup trucks earn poor ratings for rear-seat passenger safety

While most trucks received good safety ratings for the front seats, many got poor ratings in rear-seat passenger safety.
Published: Nov. 8, 2023 at 2:19 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) — Four of the most popular pickup trucks on the road do a good job protecting drivers, but new crash testing shows passengers in rear seats are more at risk of injuries.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety ran crash tests on the RAM 1500, the Ford F-150, the Chevrolet Silverado 1500, and the Toyota Tundra. “The good news is they all did pretty well in our side impact crash, which is 80% more severe than it used to be,” said Joe Nolan, the senior vice president of vehicle research at IIHS.

According to Nolan, the trucks also did a good job protecting drivers in frontal crashes but not passengers in the back seat. In IIHS’ new moderate overlap front crash test, the Tundra received a marginal rating. The other three trucks rated poor. “The primary deficits we’re seeing in these vehicles in the rear is the seatbelt itself,” Nolan said.

The vehicles were crashed at 40 miles per hour. The crash test dummy used in the rear seat was the size of a small woman or 12-year-old child. “Specifically, the rear seat occupant submarined under the seat belt, which means that the lap belt popped up above the strong pelvis area into the abdomen,” Nolan said. “This is a brand new test, and it’s very common for us to see, when we institute a new test, that initially manufacturers stumble. But it doesn’t take too long for them to make design changes and ace all of our tests.”

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This concern is not limited to pickup trucks. According to IIHS, they’ve documented similar results in other vehicle classes that have been tested. “Automakers will improve. What we’re expecting is they may change the seatbelt geometry to better fit this size occupant and also deploy technology in the belt itself, there’s something called a pretensioner that snugs up the seat belt right as a crash is sensed,” Nolan said. “Also, a force limiter, so if the forces on the shoulder belt are high enough, it will actually release some of the belt webbing to keep the forces below injurious levels.”

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