According to the Ohio Department of Safety, there are more than 200 deaths each year in the U.S. associated with riding in the cargo area of pickup trucks. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that pickup truck occupants are three times more likely to be involved in rollover crashes than in other types of vehicles.
The largest number of vehicle fatalities and injuries are caused by rollover crashes. Are pickups simply not as safe as cars and SUVs? It turns out that the fatality rates have little to do with a pickup's design. They have more to do with the use of safety belts. While safety belt laws have consistently become more stringent in all 50 states over the past ten years, according to the NCSA, only 69% of occupants in pickups were wearing safety belts by June 2003, compared to 81% of passenger car occupants and 83% of SUV and van occupants.
The Ohio Department of Public Safety reports that your chance of surviving a crash in a motor vehicle is 25 times higher if seatbelts are used. Theories abound about the reason pickup truck occupants are less likely to practice seatbelt use, thus increasing their own risk. For many who are using their pickup trucks for work (hauling and farming), the drivers tend to drive short distances and get in and out of the vehicle often. Throughout the course of the day, putting the seatbelt on and taking it off could be considered cumbersome. Another theory is that some families, particularly living in rural areas, use their older model pickups as the vehicle used for family outings.
Because many of these pickups do not have adequate room for all the passengers inside the cab, some of the passengers travel in the cargo area. While this is illegal in many states and restricted to speed conditions and age of the passengers in other states, it still happens. Fortunately, newer model pickup trucks have been designed with passenger safety and convenience in mind. For example, the popular Isuzu i-290 offers a 3-passenger 60/40 split-bench front seat with integrated outboard head restraints and the Isuzu i-370 Crew Cab offers rear 3-point seatbelts and 3-point middle seatbelt for passenger protection. Other safety features include daytime running lights and dual stage airbags. Although finding a truck that "lasts" means it's a quality vehicle, the problem with driving older model cars is not with their performance.
Safety guidelines, for the most part, have evolved more rapidly in the past ten years than in decades previous. Consumers and the government are holding pickup manufacturers to higher safety regulations in response to the vast number of preventable fatalities. A pickup manufactured prior to 1990 will be short many of these new safety features and simply cannot protect the safety of its occupants as well as newer pickup trucks do. If you're driving an older model pickup truck, you are urged to consider after-market upgrades to make your vehicle more safe for passengers, or to consider purchasing or leasing a newer model pickup.
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