The Hidden Dangers of Big Pickup Trucks

In the US, pickups account for one in every five vehicle sales. The bestselling pickups are all full-size pickups from Ford, Chevrolet, and Ram. People buy them because they’re practical, rugged, and they look great. They’re bought by drivers who need them for work, but they’re increasingly a lifestyle choice, purchased by those who want the space and love the look of a pickup truck. From the driver’s and passengers’ perspective, these oversized vehicles are very safe. For example, the Ford F-150 was given the highest safety rating by NHTSA, America’s equivalent to Euro N-Cap. But there’s a significant danger with them.

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A big truck is a danger for pedestrians. The size and weight of a car like the Chevrolet Silverado means it will seriously injury any individual it hits, even at low speed. Take the dimensions of the Jeep Gladiator, for example. Its bonnet is 45 inches high. That’s nearly four foot. The average five-year-old would not be seen from through the windscreen if they stood at the front of the car. That’s the biggest danger vehicles in this category create. The Jeep weighs 2,291kg. A five-year-old weighs 18.5kg on average. You don’t need a calculator to work out the issue here. A child would not survive an impact with a vehicle such as this.

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Collision detection isn’t just up to the driver. In some cars, pedestrian detection and blind-spot warning are standard safety features. These features are linked to a car’s automatic emergency braking system, so if a pedestrian steps into the road, the vehicle will stop. Blind-spot warning systems help drivers of large vehicles by warning drivers when a car is in the blind spot. These systems were created to help drivers of oversized vehicles such as the pickup trucks we’re looking at here, but they’re not a standard fit for all cars. In fact, they’re not yet available on some of the models that create the most risk to pedestrians. You can’t get pedestrian detection on the Chevrolet Silverado or the Jeep Gladiator. It’s available on the Ram 1500, but it’s only an option. None of the other Rams even offer it. The Toyota Tundra has it as standard, as does the Ford F-150. This technology needs to be standard on all pickups.


When Consumer Reports tested the blind spots on 15 vehicles, they found that a full-sized pickup had a front blind spot 11 feet longer than a saloon car and 7 foot longer than the average SUV driver deals with. Their height and the longer bonnets create that situation. That blind spot can easily be occupied by a pedestrian crossing the road or by a child or pet near the driveway. The rugged design means the front-end is flat, so a pedestrian is pushed back. In a saloon car, they might roll over the bonnet in impact. The front end is also very stiff. That means it won’t give. Some other types of cars have bumpers that will take some of the impact when a pedestrian hits the front end. The energy in an impact with a truck is pushed back to the pedestrian through their hips and pelvis. There’s also a high chance of a head injury against the truck’s solid grill.

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Braking Distances

A pickup truck that weighs 2,291kg like the Jeep Gladiator will struggle to stop. The truck’s not designed for performance, so the driver won’t be able to swerve out of the way of a pedestrian either. A pickup truck driver who’s only concerned about their safety can take heart that when a truck hits a car, the car driver is 1.59 more likely to die than the truck owner. And perhaps the inherent safety these vehicles offer their occupants is why they will continue to be bought. To improve their safety for pedestrians and other road-users, the manufacturers need to step up their game.

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