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The IIHS was established in 1959, and since then, safety has greatly improved for vehicles. There are some areas we still need to work on, however, like rear passenger safety in pickup trucks. There is no easy solution for this, but the Nissan Frontier has scored better than others.

Rear passengers in small pickup trucks are at risk of head injuries

The IIHS tests vehicles to determine how safe they are. To do so, they deliberately wreck vehicles by hitting them from the front, side, and rear. In order to simulate what would happen to a human, the IIHS uses dummies of various sizes and weights that can cost up to $50,000 per dummy

The results are then released to the public, and each vehicle tested is awarded a score. Those that perform well are recommended to the public, and earn the Top Safety Pick or Top Safety Pick+ award.

The latest tests on small pickup trucks have brought to light an alarming trend, according to the IIHS. Dummies sitting in the rear passenger seats are at high risk of being slammed forward, and hitting their head on the back of the seats directly in front of them. This has resulted in neck and chest injuries.

There were five small pickup trucks tested. These include the Nissan Frontier, Ford Ranger, Chevrolet Colorado, Jeep Gladiator, and Toyota Tacoma. None of them earned stellar scores. The problem is that there is no easy solution going forward.

How do automakers fix this?

Now that we know there is an issue, it’s on the automakers to fix it. How exactly do they go about doing this, however? 

There are a few options, but each comes with its own issues. The solution offered by the IIHS is improving the rear seat belts, however.

The good news is that the auto industry is listening. The reason why the IIHS is so concerned about the passengers in the rear is that automakers have gone above and beyond to make the front seat safer with the use of airbags and improved seat belts in the front. Because of this, the IIHS has actually changed its testing, which is why vehicles that previously had high safety scores are now receiving poorer ratings.

If you want a small pickup truck, you don’t have to choose another vehicle because they have safety risks. One of the trucks performed better than others, and it may be a solid choice for you.

The Nissan Frontier scored the best

The Nissan Frontier received a score of acceptable for the rear passenger seat, making it the highest scorer for the small pickup truck division. In contrast, the Ford Ranger earned a marginal score. The Toyota Tacoma, Chevrolet Colorado, and Jeep Gladiator received the worst scores, which is poor. 

The Frontier was criticized because the seat belt allowed passengers in the rear to come too close to the front seats. They were at increased risks of hitting their head. The front seat earned praise for its improved safety.

In total, the 2022-2023 Nissan Frontier earned 9 out of 10 scores of good. The rear passenger restraints and kinematics were graded as marginal. The overall rating for the Nissan Frontier is acceptable.

The Jeep Gladiator actually scored a rating of acceptable for the rear passenger restraints and kinematics, but it received a poor score for the chest, a marginal score for the head and neck, and an acceptable for the leg and foot. Because of this, its overall score is poor.

The debate is still out on which is the best small pick up. It gets hard to determine when you look beyond the safety scores. Regardless, the Frontier has some great features that make it a good choice for anyone who needs a truck.


Some Critics Give a Slight Edge to the 2023 Nissan Frontier Over the Toyota Tacoma