For years, the maxim “bigger is better” has applied to larger vehicles. Trucks, minivans, SUVs and crossovers are long believed to be the safest vehicles on the roads. Their larger frames and reinforced bodies should protect drivers and passengers in a crash, and may drivers feel safer because they are higher up, which they believe increases their visibility. New studies and research, however, are contradicting this long-held belief.
ValuePenguin recently analyzed five years of fatal cash data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). According to its findings, The Ford F-Series – the country’s most popular pickup trucks – “was involved in more fatal accidents over the course of our study than any other car, truck or SUV. The vast majority were for the most popular F-150 model, which accounted for 65% of all fatal F-Series crashes.” The data also showed that the Ford F-Series pickups are the “most commonly fatally crashed vehicles” in the Commonwealth of Virginia, as well.
In 2018, Ford F-Series were involved in 10,845 fatal crashes, out of 42,774 fatal crashes involving pickups.
Why pickup trucks are dangerous to other drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists
Pickup trucks are big – and they just keep getting bigger. They are taller and wider, and much heavier. According to Bloomberg City Lab, in 1990, the average pickup weighed about 1300 lbs; today, they weigh as much as 7,000 lbs. The weight difference between a heavy-duty pickup and any other car or person is a primary cause of catastrophic collisions: the force generated in a crash is much greater.
They also have more blind spots than ever before, which makes them more dangerous to other drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians. The boxy front design of newer model pickups makes them especially dangerous to pedestrians and cyclists, because it is difficult for drivers to see past them, since the driver’s seat does not sit higher than the engine. The point of impact is also different. When a smaller vehicle hits a pedestrian or cyclist, the point of impact is usually the legs. The force of the hit will often drive the person upwards, on top of the hood of the car. When a pickup truck hits a pedestrian or cyclist, the point of impact is the pelvis or torso, which causes the body to twist and tear, “basically the person wrapping around the vehicle.” This can increase the chance of a spinal cord injury, a traumatic brain injury, or a fatality.
It is worth noting, too, that this squared design serves no purpose outside of aesthetics. As such, trucks are less safe for those who travel around them, with no added benefit for the pickup drivers’ own safety.
Why pickups are less safe for their drivers and passengers
Not only do pickup trucks pose risks to others, but they have their own set of dangers for the people who drive them and ride in them. Most trucks, according to a different IIHS study, lack sufficient passenger-side protection in small overlap crash tests. Small overlap crashes are those where “just the front corner of the vehicle strikes another vehicle or an object such as a tree or utility pole.” (Ironically, the Ford F-150 scored well on this particular safety test.) Because of their body-on-frame design, pickups are more rigid, too, so the energy of the collision is transferred to the driver or passenger of the truck.
Another concern regarding pickup trucks is their safety technology. Later model trucks may come equipped with safety technology like forward collision warning systems and automatic emergency breaking, but most safety features are add-ons. This can greatly increase the price of the vehicle, which means purchasers may forgo the extra safety equipment. As one Ford F-150 buyer told The Detroit News, in order to afford the F-150, “she had to forgo features that were on her old Ford Explorer like blind-spot detection and air bag seat belts for the back seats. ‘The only downside was that on the Ford F-150s the up-charge was a lot more, so I then had no choice but to go with the cheaper option — getting more of a standard pickup.’”
There also appears to be a link between the number of women who suffer catastrophic injuries or death in crashes involving larger vehicles, like pickups and SUVs. A study conducted by the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS) found that “The numbers indicate that women more often drive smaller, lighter cars and that they’re more likely than men to be driving the struck vehicle in side-impact and front-into-rear crashes.” The report goes on to say:
Men and women crashed in minivans and SUVs in about equal proportions. However, around 70 percent of women crashed in cars, compared with about 60 percent of men. More than 20 percent of men crashed in pickups, compared with less than 5 percent of women. Within vehicle classes, men also tended to crash in heavier vehicles, which offer more protection in collisions.
Should you ditch your pickup truck?
Not necessarily, but you should be aware that your truck may not be as invincible as you were led to believe. If you are in a crash, the size and shape of your vehicle may not protect you as much as you thought it would – especially because there are so many other pickups on the roads in Virginia. While being in a truck may serve you better in a collision with a smaller vehicle, a crash with another truck, or with a stationary object, can lead to severe injuries.
The Richmond car accident attorneys and truck accident attorneys at Phelan Petty represent injury victims throughout Virginia. If you or a loved one suffered a catastrophic injury in a collision, we can help you seek compensation for your losses. To set up a free case consultation, please call 804-980-7100 or fill out our contact form.