Recent testing by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) shows discrepancies in rear passenger safety among four large 2023 pickup trucks, despite good performance in side crash protection.
The IIHS crash tests reveal that while the Ram 1500, Ford F-150, and Toyota Tundra crew cabs score well in side crashes, they perform poorly in protecting back seat passengers.
Only the Toyota Tundra achieved a marginal rating in the new moderate overlap front crash test, with the other models receiving poor ratings due to increased risk of back seat injuries.
Enhanced safety measures in the front seats of newer vehicles have not been matched by improvements in rear seat safety systems, leading to heightened risk for adult back seat passengers.
According to the IIHS, four prominent 2023 pickup models—Ram 1500, Ford F-150, Toyota Tundra, and Chevrolet Silverado crew cabs—offer substantial side crash protection. However, these vehicles demonstrate less effective safety measures for rear seat passengers. The organization’s updated side crash test, now integral to their top safety pick awards, showed that the models, except for the Silverado which received an acceptable rating, provided good protection. Conversely, the moderate overlap front crash test, which has been revised to put more emphasis on the safety of the back seat, presented disappointing outcomes for rear seat passengers.
The updated moderate overlap front test was developed in response to findings that, despite safety advancements, back seat passengers are now at a higher risk of fatal injuries than those in the front. This discrepancy arises not from a deterioration in rear safety, but rather from significant improvements in front seat safety technologies that are not as prevalent in the rear. Children remain safest in the back, as front airbags can cause harm; this rating, however, does not consider children properly secured in child safety seats.
The IIHS’s adjusted test now includes a second dummy in the second row to better represent a small woman or 12-year-old child, aiming to concentrate on injuries common among back seat passengers. Vehicles must protect against excessive injury risk without dummies submarining or experiencing improper belt positioning to earn a good rating. Unfortunately, all four pickups struggled with submarining, and only the Tundra showed slightly lower forces on the belt, indicating a somewhat better, yet still insufficient, protection in rear seat safety.
While front seat occupants were well-protected across all four models, the IIHS found that the rear restraint systems fell short. These findings suggest an pressing need for manufacturers to balance the safety features between the front and rear seats to enhance protection for all passengers.