Pedestrians and drivers of smaller cars are most at risk.
Not only do Americans love trucks but we buy them in alarmingly high numbers. In fact, one of every five new vehicles being sold is a pickup. The Ford F-Series continues to rule on the sales charts but the Chevrolet Silverado and Ram's pickups aren't far behind. While the versatility, off-road abilities, and aggressive looks of pickups make for a winning recipe, there is a potentially fatal downside that has been uncovered in new research released by Consumer Reports (CR). Trucks are growing in size and this has made them increasingly hazardous to drivers in smaller cars and pedestrians when a collision occurs.
CR referenced an incident last year when the driver of a 2020 Jeep Gladiator hit and killed an elderly woman named Eva Barcza in New Jersey. Her daughter, Mary Barcza, believes that her mother would have had a greater chance of surviving if she were hit by a smaller vehicle. Mary Barcza is now working with a group called Families for Safe Streets with the aim of lowering urban speed limits and getting large vehicles to require warning labels alerting prospective owners to their dangers. Based on CR's research into whether modern trucks are more dangerous for other road users, Barcza seems to have a point.
With their tall hoods, trucks have a much larger front blind spot than a smaller car. Of 931 ''frontover" fatalities recorded between 1990 and 2019, 80 percent involved a truck, an SUV, or a van. CR's analysis indicates that the hood height of passenger trucks has gone up by 11 percent since 2000. Some trucks have a front blind spot that is 11 feet longer than in certain sedans. Between 2000 and 2018, pickups became 24 percent heavier. The Ford F-250 Heavy Duty's hood front edge stands 55 inches off the ground which makes it as tall as the roof height of some sedans. The rugged body-on-frame designs and tall hoods may make these vehicles appealing to us but they're also posing a greater risk to other road users.
Adding further salt to the wound is CR's findings that pickups - especially entry-level models - are less likely than other vehicle types to get critical standard safety features like automatic emergency braking and blind-spot monitoring, despite the fact that trucks actually need them more. Lighter vehicles are more agile so avoiding a collision in the first place is easier. A study from earlier this year showed that women are also at a higher risk in a crash as they tend to choose more compact vehicles, whereas more men drive trucks.
While we don't expect hatchback sales to suddenly skyrocket after CR's findings, a good starting point would be for automakers to equip trucks with existing technologies to make them safer for other road users.