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Safety isn’t typically the first factor consumers think about when shopping for a truck. However, it’s still a vital part of the driving experience. Unfortunately, few pickups deliver extremely safe performance. 

Trucks are incredibly popular, especially since automakers are manufacturing more fuel-efficient and luxurious models every year. While pickups aren’t necessarily family vehicles, drivers expect a certain amount of protection. 

The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS) only named one truck a Top Safety Pick in 2020. And even the 2021 Ram 1500 – the only new truck to win a safety award – comes with a catch.

This revelation might come as a surprise to many drivers. After all, a pickup truck’s rugged profile practically screams tough. So, why doesn’t that translate to safety?

To answer that question, we’ll take a look at the IIHS’s data to uncover some truths about the industry’s newest trucks.

What makes the 2021 Ram 1500 so safe?

A black 2021 Ram 1500 TRX driving off-road with dirt kicking up
The 2021 Ram 1500 TRX in action | Photo via Fiat Chrysler Automobiles

There’s a reason the RAM 1500 is one of the best-selling trucks and why some refer to it as the Rolls Royce of pickups. It delivers incredible performance, has a refined interior, and sets the bar for safety.

Considering that this model fires on all cylinders, its elite safety scores shouldn’t be a surprise. However, some shoppers may not realize how well it excels in the category at first glance. After all, the 2021 Ram 1500 isn’t equipped with a long list of driver-assist technologies.

Notably, shoppers can add features like automatic emergency braking and blind-spot monitoring via optional equipment packages.

But while rivals like the Toyota Tundra and Honda Ridgeline come standard with smart safety systems, the Ram 1500 shines in crash tests.

The IIHS gave the Ram 1500 the highest rating of “good” in all six of its crashworthiness categories. Additionally, the organization deemed the truck’s optional vehicle-to-vehicle front-crash prevention system to be “superior.” 

The safest truck also comes with a crucial drawback

A close-up look at the headlights of a red 2021 Ram 1500 Limited
The LED projector headlights of the 2021 Ram 1500 Limited | Photo via Fiat Chrysler Automobiles

The industry doesn’t have a pickup that offers more protection than the 2021 Ram 1500. However, you’ll have to be careful which Ram 1500 setup you choose if safety is one of your top priorities.

The IIHS only gave Ram 1500 Crew Cab models Top Safety Pick designation. That means Quad Cab versions with an extended box don’t earn the same honor. The IIHS’s data indicates that these 2021 Ram 1500 configurations have subpar headlights. The organization gave it a “marginal” rating in this category, stating that the truck’s visibility was “inadequate” at illuminating curves in the road.

Crew Cab models also come with inferior headlamps that earned a “marginal” rating. However, particular trim levels (Laramie Longhorn, Limited, and TRX) have LED projector headlights that the IIHS designated as “good.”

These grades are more critical as they might appear. That’s because the IIHS only awards Top Safety Pick honors to 2021 Ram 1500 models with optional front crash prevention equipment and specific headlights.

Notably, drivers with young children should be aware that the 2021 Ram 1500 also doesn’t have an elite LATCH system. The IIHS graded the Crew Cab’s system as “marginal” and the Quad Cab’s system as “acceptable.”

Where did other pickups fall short?

There are many trucks on the market, but none live up to the 2021 RAM 1500’s safety standard. The vast majority of these models fared poorly in the IIHS’s crash tests.

The Ram 1500 was the only model that earned top marks in the passenger-side small overlap front crash test among the large and small pickups the IIHS tested in 2020. Specifically, the Toyota Tundra faltered in this test, earning a “poor” rating.

Small trucks, in particular, recorded spotty results. For instance, the IIHS gave the Nissan Frontier an “acceptable” rating in its roof test and a “marginal” score in the driver-side small overlap front crash test.

The vast majority of trucks also have problematic headlights. The IIHS gave the Chevy Silverado 1500, Chevy Colorado, GMC Sierra 1500, GMC Canyon, and Nissan Frontier the lowest rating of “poor” in this category. Meanwhile, the Toyota Tacoma and Honda Ridgeline were the only other trucks to offer available headlights that earned a score of “good.”

The 2021 Ram 1500 is a tough-looking truck that actually plays the part

Most trucks run the gamut with polarizing crash-test scores. It appears that manufacturers have attempted to offset these issues by equipping models with standard driver-assistance technologies. While these features can help prevent an accident from happening, they won’t do enough to protect you fully should one actually occur.

Meanwhile, the 2021 Ram 1500 displayed fortitude by acing the IIHS’s most significant trials. But if you plan to buy a 2021 Ram 1500 based on its safety acumen, make sure it’s a model equipped with the necessary smart safety systems and proper headlights. After all, you do likely want the toughest truck on the block.