Pickups are getting bigger all the time – and that affects safety

Consumers demand ever-bigger pickup trucks to help them “conquer the road.” It’s a cultural phenomenon. Unfortunately, most people don’t realize that the larger these vehicles get, the larger the blind spot they have in the front. Children and shorter adults can be in this blind spot with neither the pedestrian nor the pickup driver being aware.

Consumer Reports measured the front blind spots for 15 new vehicles, including full-size and heavy-duty pickups. These vehicles are tall and have long hoods, which increase the front blind spot.

The safety nonprofit found that some trucks’ blind spots were 11 feet longer than the same blind spot for a sedan, and 7 feet longer than in many common SUVs.

When a vehicle strikes a pedestrian in their front blind spot, it’s called a “frontover” collision, according to a Consumer Reports expert. Between 1990 and 2019, there were over 931 frontover fatalities in the U.S. Most involved children under 12 being hit by a truck, van or SUV.

These extra-large pickups can also wreak havoc on a smaller, lighter vehicle in a collision.

What has changed? More than size alone

According to Consumer Reports, the hood height of passenger trucks is much higher than it used to be. It has increased, on average, by 11% since 2000. At the same time, the average pickup truck grew 24% heavier.

What’s astonishing is the sheer height of the hood on some of these vehicles. For example, on a Ford F-250 heavy-duty pickup, the hood edge stands 55 inches off the ground or even higher. That’s as tall as the roof on some sedans and can create a large enough front blind spot to hide an adult pedestrian or a small car from view.

Pickups are less likely than other large vehicles to have standard safety features meant to prevent frontovers and crashes with smaller vehicles. For example, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection would help limit front-end pedestrian crashes, but only four manufacturers (Ford, Honda, Nissan and Toyota) have this feature standard in regular-duty trucks. GM and Stellantis (Ram) plan to add the feature as standard in regular-duty trucks by 2022.

Why have pickups grown so big?

Manufacturers point to consumer preference when explaining why a pickup’s hood needs to be as high as a sedan’s roof. One said that “customers prefer more purposeful looks.” Another said that consumers demand higher ground clearance for off-roading, greater towing capacity and more cargo space, which add weight and volume to the vehicle. Two manufacturers said their big trucks need large grilles to cool the engine when the truck is towing something heavy.

Pickups are profitable. Based on sales figures, full-size pickups are best sellers. Full-size pickups command 79% of the pickup market – a 12% rise since 2000.

Full-size pickups are macho. They’re a lifestyle choice. They’re a status symbol. Moreover, they are subject to lower taxes and fuel-economy standards than smaller trucks. Small business owners get larger tax breaks for heavier vehicles.

The societal costs are high

Unfortunately, there are serious costs to having such large vehicles on the road. The higher bumper height can, for example, transfer the energy of a crash directly to the victim’s hips and pelvis, where it can do substantial damage. That high hood can strike a pedestrian right in the head. The taller vehicle can also push a pedestrian over and run them down.

These big vehicles are also harder to maneuver. They typically do worse on emergency handling and braking tests. They’re more likely to be in crashes than smaller vehicles.

When a car collides with a pickup, the car’s driver is 1.59 times more likely to be killed than they would be in a crash that didn’t involve a pickup.

If you have been in a pickup accident, there could be a product liability component to your injury claim. Talk to an attorney knowledgeable with both motor vehicle accidents and product liability claims.

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