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Consumer Reports: Pick-ups are getting bigger and more dangerous


When you walk into a car dealership in Temecula, one of the first things you’ll notice is that the vehicles have grown. Like children, America’s vehicles add an inch or two – sometimes more – every year. Cars, vans, SUVs and pick-up trucks have all measurably grown over the past couple of decades.

Bigger trucks carry hidden dangers

The growth in size and weight is really a function of the law of supply and demand. Americans want more headroom, legroom and room for their stuff, and automakers are happy to oblige.

While the popularity of big pick-ups can’t be denied, neither can their increased deadliness. Consumer Reports says its testing has found that it’s more difficult for drivers of bigger vehicles to avoid motor vehicle crashes.

Diving into the data

In collisions involving a pick-up and a car, the car’s driver is 1.59 times more likely to be killed than in collisions involving two vehicles that are not pick-ups.

When a pick-up strikes a pedestrian, its tall front end and high bumper does more damage than a lower vehicle does. Trucks cause more serious injuries in adults because they strike the victim’s hips and pelvis and in younger, smaller pedestrians, the pick-ups are more likely to cause head injuries due to head-to-hood contact.

Best-seller list

The three best-selling vehicles in the U.S. are pick-ups: the Ford F-Series, Chevy Silverado and Ram. Twenty percent of all vehicles sold are pick-up trucks.

The most popular type of pick-ups: full-sized. They account for a whopping 79 percent of all passenger trucks sold.

Tyson Jominy, vice president for data and analytics for J.D. Power estimates that automakers can make four or five times as much money on pickups than on sedans. The difference is due to a simpler, less expensive truck manufacturing process and because buyers are willing to pay more for a pickup’s capability and image.

Packing on the pounds

Safety advocates point out that trucks would be safer for pedestrians, bicyclists, motorcyclists and people in cars if truck designers lowered hoods and reduced vehicle weight. Pick-ups range in weight from less than 4,000 pounds for smaller models, to more than 5,000 pounds for a full-sized truck with four-wheel drive.

There’s no sign that automakers are ready to downsize their most profitable vehicles. In fact, the trend is in the opposite direction. A Consumer Reports analysis of auto industry data found that pick-up hood height has increased 11 percent since 2000. Pick-ups became 24 percent heavier from 2000 to 2018.

While some might use the statistics to criticize owners of big pick-ups, a more productive approach might be to urge manufacturers to make advanced safety technologies standard on full-sized pick-ups and urge drivers of vehicles large and small to watch out for each other and watch out most of all for Temecula pedestrians.