New tests show small pickups still lag on key safety factors, Insurance Institute says

The IIHS' Chief Research Officer said the Toyota Tacoma came out on top in recent tests, but none of the small pickups made it as a top safety pick by the IIHS. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, File)

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — When it comes to safety, many small pickup trucks come up short, new crash tests show.

New tests by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) say safety features on small pickup trucks are improving, but many of those small pickup are still lacking.

The Insurance Institute looked at several factors during its small pickup tests, including headlights what’s called the small overlap test.

Here’s why that test is important.

Imagine you’re driving down a two-lane road, and a car coming in the opposite direction swerves into your lane. You try to avoid that vehicle, but you can’t quite miss it. You don’t hit head-on, but your vehicle is struck with a glancing blow on the driver’s side. That’s an overlap crash and that’s what the Insurance Institute tested.

“Mainly we’re looking at the area around where the driver sits and what crushed in around him, leaving him less survival space,” explains David Zuby who is the chief research officer with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

The insurance institute rated eight small pickup trucks.

Zuby explained why the best of them was the Toyota Tacoma: “The driver’s side was maintained, so the seat belts and air bags could do their job and keep forces from the driver.”

The Insurance Institute says the worst performers in small pickup group were the Nissan Frontier King Cab and Nissan Frontier Crew Cab.

Zuby says those pickups have a design that hasn’t been changed in a decade, and he says tests show that compromises driver safety.

“The footrest was pushed nearly 17 inches toward the driver in a test of the Crew Cab and nearly 14 inches in the King Cab,” said Zuby. “A person in this crash would likely have suffered serious injuries to the leg and left foot.”

Headlights are another issue with the small pickups the IIHS tested. It found none of those small pickups it tested lit up the road well enough.

“None were available with anything but poor-rated headlights,” said Zuby. “Drivers shouldn’t have to give up the ability to see the road at night when they choose a small pickup.”

That, and lack of emergency braking systems was enough to keep any of the small pickups from making it as a top safety pick by the IIHS.

Take a detailed look at side-by-side ratings.

Here are details about how the tests were conducted.

Email CBS North Carolina’s Steve Sbraccia if you have a consumer issue.

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