Real-World Crash Data Disputes NHTSA and IIHS Test Results

Frank Williams
by Frank Williams

Pickup trucks may not be the deathtraps the NHTSA and IIHS tests make them out to be. Forbes reports research done by Virginia Commonwealth University that compared crash test ratings against data on fatal crashes. They found that while cars with higher crash test ratings show fewer fatalities than those with lower ratings, the same wasn't true for pickup trucks. In the NHTSA and IIHS tests, trucks are crashed into stationary barriers while in the real world, most crashes are vehicle-to-vehicle. In those cases, researchers postulate, the ladder frame in the pickups act as a "battering ram," allowing it to withstand an impact from a smaller, lighter vehicle better than when striking a stationary barrier. Of course, the IIHS dismisses the idea, saying they have no evidence that ladder-frame construction has any effect on crashworthiness. After all, why let real-world facts get in the way of laboratory results?

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  • Sajeev Mehta Sajeev Mehta on Jan 05, 2008

    allythom: problem is those old/new crash tests by Fifth Gear involved vehicles that were designed before/after Euro NCAP went into play in 1997. Am I correct in assuming this? Seems like Fifth Gear freely admits it too...even if its edited to show theatrics over the hard facts. The only way to make everyone safe in these situations is to ban body on frame cars/trucks entirely. Or make it a law that body on framers are only allowed to crash into brick walls.

  • MichaelC MichaelC on Jan 05, 2008

    No fault insurance has contributed to the general discrimination in favor of PU trucks (and SUVs). The basic argument in favor of no fault is good, but one problem is that it apportions damages without regard to the vehicles involved. To make things fairer, and this doesn't take into account the 'safety' of a battering ram design, make the damages proportional to the ratio of the kinetic energy of each vehicle in the crash. Insurance rates would rise appropriately for those purchasing this safety at the expense of their neighbors. It would also help for these vehicles to be treated consistently with their regulatory status (fuel economy, emissions, safety requirements). If they are trucks then get them out of the left lanes, limit their speed limits and ban them from 'car only' roadways (as they were for years from the parkways in the NYC area). SUVs have been popular because of their height, giving a 'commanding' view, and weight. The problem is not so much the fact people choose SUVs in part because of perceived safety, but that they are able to do so for no cost beyond gas consumption. The expense is borne by other drivers who cannot see and who fare poorly in any accident with these vehicles.

  • Taxman100 Taxman100 on Jan 07, 2008

    If you go to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety website, and skip past all the fear-mongering on their first page, they have a link to insurance loss rating for vehicles 2004-2006. The numbers are class specific, but the colors are in comparasion to all vehicles on the road. Pick up trucks are nearly all much better than average on "personal injury protection" and "medical payment" compared to all vehicles on the market. Statistically, you are much safer in a pick up truck than other vehicles when you are in a crash.

  • KBW KBW on Jan 07, 2008

    Those numbers tend to be colored more by driver demographics than anything else. For example, the Mercury Grand Marquis is rated as substantially better than average while the crown vic is rated average, but the cars are exactly the same. If you use their numbers as a basis for determining which car is safer, than a high end convertible sports car must be the safest in the world.