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It’s no surprise that the passenger seat in vehicles is often the most dangerous. For years safety organizations like the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety have been warning people that the passenger seat of vehicles is especially deadly. In response, car manufacturers have worked hard to enhance the safety of the passenger seat in vehicles, and these days it isn’t always the most dangerous place to be in a vehicle. Yet even with these safety improvements, the passenger seat in these pickup trucks is dangerous.

A blue Ford Ranger racing through the woods.
Ford Ranger | Ford

What makes the passenger seat dangerous in trucks?

A silver Toyota Tacoma parked outside with a skateboarder going by.
Toyota Tacoma | Toyota

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says that frontal crashes are the most common type of crash to end in fatalities. Years ago things were even worse, but safety organizations have been setting standards for car manufacturers to meet, and it’s helped improve the safety of the front seats. 

Still, things aren’t perfect. The IIHS conducts a test called the small overlap frontal test on both the driver and passenger side of vehicles. They began doing the driver side in 2012 in addition to a moderate overlap test. They say, “The test is designed to replicate what happens when the front left corner of a vehicle collides with another vehicle or an object like a tree or utility pole.” In particular, it measures how well the seat belt and airbags do. 

To conduct this test, the IIHS simulates what happens when a vehicle traveling at 40 mph hits a 5-foot tall rigid barrier. Specifically, the front left 25% of the vehicle hits the barrier in the driver side test. Once the IIHS started including this test in their ratings, car manufacturers began making the driver side of vehicles safer. 

Unfortunately, the safety measure they took didn’t always carry over to the passenger side. In 2017, the IIHS added the small overlap passenger side test to try to encourage car manufacturers to make the passenger seat safer as well. Although things have gotten better, they’re often still not quite as safe as the driver seat. Let’s look at the trucks that still don’t have a passenger side whose safety matches the driver’s side.

The 2021 Toyota Tacoma’s passenger seat is more dangerous than the driver’s side

The 2021 Toyota Tacoma gets a good small overlap rating with all of the subcategories except for the lower leg/foot also getting a good rating. The lower leg/foot gets an acceptable rating. 

On the other hand, the passenger rating is only an acceptable. While most of the subcategories are good, the lower leg/foot rating is poor. 

The 2021 Ford Ranger is the IIHS’ second highest-rated small pickup

Yet being the IIHS’ second highest-rated small pickup truck doesn’t give the Ranger a safe passenger seat. While the small overlap on the driver side gets mostly good ratings (the lower leg/foot only gets a marginal), things aren’t quite so great on the passenger side.

The overall rating on the passenger side is just acceptable. And within those subcategories, the structure and safety cage gets an acceptable rating and the lower leg/foot only gets a marginal rating. 

The 2021 Chevy Colorado gets a marginal for its passenger side

The 2021 Chevrolet Colorado also gets a good rating for its driver side seat. The structure and safety cage only gets an acceptable rating though. 

However, the passenger side only gets a marginal rating, and the subcategories are the worst of these three trucks. The structure and safety cage gets a poor rating. The lower leg/foot only gets a marginal rating. 
Although the passenger seat in these pickups are dangerous, they’re hardly alone. Not a single small pickup truck rated by the IIHS has a good small overlap passenger side rating. If you have your heart set on one of these trucks anyway, perhaps you should evaluate overall crash test ratings and load up on safety features to try to avoid an accident. Hopefully car manufacturers will start taking passenger side safety as seriously as they do driver side.


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