• BREAKING NEWS ABC shows live and on-demand -- Download the WATCH ABC app!

Small pickups crash test prove disappointing

February 4, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
For the first time the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety rollover tested small pickup trucks, but in the tests only one model was rated good. Consumer Specialist Ric Romero reports the results of the crash tests that were mostly disappointing.Nearly 10,000 people a year are killed in rollover crashes. So it's very important that manufacturers build their vehicles to do the best job possible in such crashes. Unfortunately, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, there needs to be more work done on small pickups.

Rollovers are serious crashes and they are more common in SUVs and pickup trucks than in cars. In 2008 almost half of all pickup occupants killed in crashes were in trucks that rolled over.

In a handout video from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety we learn that it's all about the roof.

"When the roof caves in, there's not much room inside to protect the occupants," explained David Zuby, V.P. of Insurance Institute. "And if the windows break out, there's an increased chance of being thrown from the vehicle."

The Institute's research shows the stronger the roof the better the protection. The small pickup with the strongest roof was the Nissan Frontier which received a rating of good.

"In this demonstration test we crushed the roof with 15,000 pounds and it crashed less than four inches," said Zuby.

In order to earn a rating of good, a pickup's roof must be able to support four times the vehicle's weight. The Chevrolet Colorado was unable to do that as it had the weakest roof in the tests.

All in all, five vehicles were tested with none earning a top safety pick award, although the Nissan Frontier came closest. "Unfortunately, the seats didn't earn our top rating for whip lash protection in rear crashes. If Nissan were to upgrade the seat design, Frontier could be a top safety pick," said Zuby.

    Rollover Crash Test Results:
  • Nissan Frontier: Good
  • Ford Ranger: Acceptable
  • Dodge Dakota: Marginal
  • Toyota Tacoma: Marginal
  • Chevrolet Colorado: Marginal
Of course, the best occupant protection is to keep vehicles from rolling over in the first place and that's where electronic stability control comes in which significantly reduces rollovers so look for a truck that has it.