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It’s no secret that pickup trucks are getting bigger. Consumer Reports looked at the size of various vehicles and found that “passenger trucks has increased by an average of at least 11 percent since 2000 and that new pickups grew 24 percent heavier on average from 2000 to 2018.” There’s a major downside to trucks getting bigger: they’re deadly. And those who are killed in accidents with smaller cars are often those with low-income.

A dark blue 2022 Chevy Silverado against a white background.
2022 Chevy Silverado | Chevrolet

Are smaller cars safer in accidents?

Some people mistakingly believe that smaller cars are safer in accidents, but this isn’t the case. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says that, “A bigger, heavier vehicle provides better crash protection than a smaller, lighter one, assuming no other differences.” Part of this is because

And when a car and a pickup truck are in an accident together? That’s bad news, for the driver of the car, at least. The IIHS says that a car driver is 1.59 times more likely to die in a car accident with a pickup truck in a two-vehicle crash than in one without a truck.

Car accidents can reflect inequities, such as income

Consumer Reports says that “Larger pickups also reflect the transportation inequities that may put certain people at greater risk.” One of those is income. Drivers of small cars that don’t offer a lot in terms of protection are often people with low-income. These cars can be older and lacking essential safety features, which further increase the risk.

In addition, the IIHS says that women are more likely to be injured in a car accident than men in a car accident with a pickup truck. This is despite the fact that most pickup drivers are male.

Are SUVs as deadly as big pickup trucks?

Consumer Reports says that although SUVs used to be about as dangerous as trucks, that’s generally no longer the case. That’s because SUVs have become more car-like and lighter. Pickup trucks, on the other hand, have trended toward becoming heavier. Part of that is due to things like larger and heavier cabs.

In fact, smaller pickup trucks are only as dangerous as most SUVs, in part because they usually weigh less than 4,000 pounds. Yet mid-size pickup trucks tend to weigh about 4,500 pounds and full-size pickup trucks, especially those with four-wheel drive, weigh more than 5,000 pounds.

What can be done about this problem? Pickup trucks are only getting bigger, though they don’t have to. Car manufacturers say they are making what consumers want, though it is clear that if this trend of growing trucks and shrinking cars continues, more motorists will be in danger. Design changes may be able to mitigate some of the problems associated with the biggest trucks, though it may take more than that to outweigh the dangers of large pickup trucks.


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