Trucks rule, but safety improvements necessary

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By James Raia

Driving a pickup truck feels safe. Long-time users know the feeling well. Newbies to the segment usually understand quickly.

Yet it’s not always as safe as possible. Sitting high off the road and in a vehicle with all-wheel drive or 4WD capacity provides a sense of security. But 2020 trucks don’t always have top safety ratings – at least so far.

The best-selling Ford F-150 pickup trucks doesn't have the top safety rating.
The best-selling Ford F-150 pickup trucks don’t have the top safety rating.

In fact, no 2020 model trucks so far have received a Top Safety Pick or a Top Safety Pick+ – the highest ratings – according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

Not all 2020 models have IIHS ratings yet, but at least three reasons contribute to trucks’ surprising ratings.

Truck drivers, feeling safe, sometimes drive too aggressively in inclement weather. Trucks often have body-on-frame construction and accident impact results are often severe. Some automakers also focus on their cars to gain the highest safety marks, but not their trucks.

According to IIHS data, trucks often don’t get top marks in the passenger-side small overlap front test and headlight evaluation.

Still, here are five popular 2020 model year pickup trucks that achieved the best safety marks in the segment:

Ram 1500 Crew Cab. It was the first full-size pickup truck to earn a 2019 Top Safety Pick+ designation from the IIHS. It didn’t get to the top rating this year because it lacks pedestrian sensing for its front crash prevention technology.

Honda Ridgeline. It’s rare among trucks with its unibody construction. It has the front-wheel-drive, car-based platform Honda uses on cars and SUVs. Newly standard this year is Honda Sensing driver-assistance and safety features. A healthy supply of safety equipment is also standard. It didn’t get the top rating this year because it ranked only Acceptable in the small-overlap front passenger-side test.

Toyota Tacoma. It’s been around for a long time and features a lot of standard safety equipment including the Toyota Safety Sense P suite. The Tacoma gets top ratings in several categories this year, but it doesn’t have a top mark in the passenger-side front offset test. And it received only a Marginal rating in models with halogen headlights.

Ford Ranger. After an eight-year hiatus, the Ranger returned as a 2019 model and was upgraded this year and offered in new colors. Co-Pilot360, the manufacturer’s safety package name, is standard on every trim level. It includes automatic emergency braking, curve control, forward collision monitoring and a rearview camera. But headlights rated only as Marginal prohibited the truck from being a Top Safety Pick.

Ford F-150. The country’s top-selling vehicle for decades, the F-150 features forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking. Available equipment, depending upon model, includes blind-spot monitoring with cross-traffic alert, automatic high-beam headlights, inflatable rear seatbelts and Ford Co-Pilot360. All tests were top-ranked except for a poor rating for headlights.

James Raia, a syndicated columnist in Sacramento, publishes a free weekly automotive podcast and newsletter both with sign-ups available in his website: www.theweeklydriver.com. He can be reached via email: james@jamesraia.com.

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Wolfe

Personally, I think it’s unfair to combine things like pedestrian sensing in the safety ratings… The traditional rating system was measuring how safe the vehicle is for the passengers in a crash/rollover/alien abduction. I suppose pedestrian sensing is a potential liability issue, but “safety” should be restricted to things the driver can’t control, not fails to control. A tool is safe if it doesn’t explode by itself, not protecting me from myself.

Donald N Wright

The Ford F 150 headlights. What is wrong with them, and how can they be improved?