NBC 5 Responds

New crash testing of popular pickup truck models raises passenger safety concerns

Of those four trucks- the Toyota Tundra received a ‘marginal’ rating in the testing.While the others, including the F-150, RAM 1500 and Silverado, were given ‘poor’ ratings.


New testing reveals several popular pick-up truck models don’t make the grade when it comes to rear seat safety.

 According to new testing from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety- four of the most popular,  2023 pick-up trucks offer strong protection in certain crashes but fall short when it comes to protecting passengers in the back seat. 

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, traditional vehicle crash testing usually involves a vehicle hitting a flat barrier at 35 miles per hour and gauging the impacts on front row passengers.

 “That's a good regulation. But what it doesn't do is require that the automakers think about these situations where the all of the forces are concentrated on just one half of the car, which makes up the majority of frontal impacts,” said Joe Nolan, IIHS’s Senior Vice President of Vehicle Research.

Using a more dynamic testing method, the IIHS tested four pick-up truck models by crashing them into an uneven surface, closely resembling the front of another vehicle, at a higher speed. In the backseat- a crash test dummy about the size of a small woman or teen.

2023 Ford F-150 Supercrew. Action shot taken during the updated moderate overlap front test. Courtesy: IIHS

The four 2023 crew cab models tested include the RAM 1500, Ford F-150, Toyota Tundra and the Chevy Silverado.

Of those four trucks- the Toyota Tundra received a ‘marginal’ rating in the testing, while the others, including the F-150, RAM 1500 and Silverado, were given ‘poor’ ratings.

Testing on all four models showed something researchers call ‘submarining’ for back seat passengers.

“Submarining is when the lap belt slides up above the pelvis into the abdomen, and the dummy is able to kind of move under. And abdominal injuries are what we see in field data for rear seat occupants, and they can be quite traumatic,” said Nolan.

2023 Ram 1500 Crew Cab. The rear passenger dummy's head remained a safe distance from the front seatback. Courtesy: IIHS

Based on measurements taken from the crash test dummies, researchers found chest injuries and head and neck injuries would be likely in the F-150 and RAM 1500.

The risk of those injuries was somewhat lower in the Chevy Silverado but still “excessive”. As for the Toyota Tundra- poor belt positioning increased the risk of chest injuries.

IIHS Large Pick-up Truck ratings. Courtesy: IIHS

 So what can you do if you own one of these models?

“If they're seated in the rear, have a good posture, don't slouch. Don't slide under the seatbelt. And when they put the seatbelt on, also try to make sure that it's positioned squarely over the pelvis and across the center of the chest. Don't put the belt behind your back or, or leave a lot of slack in the belt. And that will help a lot,” said Nolan.

Despite all these findings, researchers say the back seat remains the safest place for children, and the ratings we mentioned don’t  apply to children secured properly in child safety seats.

NBC 5 Responds reached out to Ford, General Motors, Chrysler and Toyota for comment about the testing.

Ford told NBC 5 Responds:

"Safety is a top priority, and the 2023 Ford F-150 meets or exceeds all current safety regulations and requirements. IIHS recently changed their moderate front overlap test procedure for the second row. We are always working to continuously improve and we consider IIHS and other third-party feedback in vehicle development. F-150 continues to achieve a “Good” overall rating in the original moderate overlap test for the front row and for the updated side impact test. F-150 also earned an IIHS 2022CY Top Safety Pick and the 2023 MY F-150 has a 5-star overall NHTSA rating, which is among the top on the market today."

Stellantis, the parent company of Chrysler, told NBC 5 Responds:

“We routinely consider third-party ratings and factor them into our product-development process, as appropriate. We engineer our vehicles for real-world performance. The protection of our customers is an integral part of the upfront design of a vehicle's structure. Every Stellantis model meets or exceeds all applicable federal vehicle safety standards.”

General Motors told NBC 5 Responds:

“While we are very confident in the overall safety and crashworthiness of our light-duty Chevy Silverado crew cab, we appreciate what the IIHS has done with its new rear seat test protocols. IIHS findings are among the third-party inputs we value as we develop our products and continuously improve passenger safety.”

 A Toyota spokesperson told NBC 5 Responds: “We have no comment to add on the testing.”

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