Nissan Frontier Leads the Pack in Pickup Truck Rollover Tests

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Personal Injury News

Article Date: 2/9/2010 | Resource: MLG

Nissan Frontier Leads the Pack in Pickup Truck Rollover Tests

A test of five small 2010 model pickup trucks for rollover protection – the first ever by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) — has yielded some disappointing results.

The IIHS reports that the Nissan Frontier, also sold as the Suzuki Equator, is the only one in the group to earn the highest rating of “good.” Among the others, the Ford Ranger is rated “acceptable” while the Dodge Dakota, Toyota Tacoma, and Chevrolet Colorado (also sold as the GMC Canyon) earn the second lowest rating of “marginal.”

The rating system is based on IIHS research showing that occupants in rollover crashes benefit from stronger roofs. Vehicles rated good must have roofs that are more than twice as strong as the minimum required under the current federal safety standard.

The ratings, products of the Institute’s new roof strength testing program, add to consumer information tests that rate vehicles’ front, side, and rear crashworthiness. The rollover test is designed to help consumers pick vehicles that will protect them the best in one of the most serious kinds of crashes.

“As a group, small pickups aren’t performing as well as small cars or small SUVs in all of the Institute’s safety tests,” says Institute senior vice president David Zuby. “None of the ones we tested is a top-notch performer across the board. In fact, no small pickup earns our Top Safety Pick award.”

The Frontier came close to winning the 2010 award, but it’s rated acceptable instead of good for protection against neck injury in rear crashes. To earn Top Safety Pick, a vehicle has to earn good ratings for protection in front, side, rear, and rollover crashes. It also has to have electronic stability control.

Nearly 10,000 people a year are killed in rollovers. When vehicles roll, their roofs hit the ground, deform, and crush. Stronger roofs crush less, reducing the risk of injury from contact with the roof itself.

Stronger roofs also can prevent people, especially those who aren’t using safety belts, from being ejected through windows, windshields, or doors that have broken or opened because the roof deformed. Roofs that don’t collapse help keep people inside vehicles when they roll.

Rollovers are much more common for SUVs and pickup trucks than for cars. In 2008 almost half (47 percent) of all pickup occupants killed in crashes were in trucks that rolled over. This compares with 58 percent of deaths in SUVs and 25 percent in cars.

The best occupant protection is to keep vehicles from rolling in the first place. Electronic stability control is significantly reducing rollovers, especially fatal single-vehicle ones. When vehicles roll, side curtain airbags help protect people. Safety belt use is essential.

In the Institute’s roof strength test, a metal plate is pushed against 1 corner of a roof at a constant speed. To earn a “good” rating, a roof must withstand a force of 4 times the vehicle’s weight before reaching 5 inches of crush. For an “acceptable” rating, the minimum strength-to-weight ratio required is 3.25. A “marginal” rating value is 2.5, and anything lower than that is poor.

The Frontier withstood a force of just over 4 times its weight. This compares with 2.9 times weight for the Colorado. A strength-to-weight ratio of 4 reflects an estimated 50 percent reduction in serious or fatal injury risk in single-vehicle rollover crashes, compared with the current federal standard of 1.5.

In April 2009, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) ended numerous delays by unveiling a new rule that raises the federal roof strength requirement, currently a strength-to-weight ratio of 1.5, to 3 for vehicles with weight ratings up to 6,000 pounds. Roofs on vehicles with weight ratings 6,000 to 10,000 pounds will be required to withstand a force equal to 1.5 times their unloaded weight, whereas these vehicles’ roofs are not regulated under the old standard.

Another requirement is that roofs maintain sufficient headroom during testing. For the first time, the government will require the same performance on both sides of a roof when tested sequentially. Phase-in begins in September 2012, and all vehicles must comply by September 2016.

“The long phase-in of the new standard means roofs won’t have to get stronger right away,” Zuby points out, “so we plan to continue rating vehicle roof strength for the foreseeable future. We want to reward manufacturers who are ahead of their competition for protecting people in rollovers.”

In addition to the new roof strength ratings, the Institute conducted side tests of small pickup truck models. Earning “good” ratings are the Frontier, with standard front and rear head curtain airbags plus front torso airbags. Also earning “good” ratings are the Ranger, with standard front-seat mounted combination head and torso airbags, and the Tacoma, which the Institute tested in 2008.

In contrast, the Colorado is rated “poor” for occupant protection in side crashes. It’s equipped with standard curtain side airbags but lacks additional airbags designed to protect a driver’s torso. The Colorado’s poor structure, along with poor protection for the driver dummy’s chest and pelvis, contributed to its poor rating overall. Plus the dummy’s head came close to moving around the curtain airbag during the impact by the intruding barrier.

Side evaluations are based on performance in a crash test in which the side of a vehicle is struck by a barrier moving at 31 mph. The barrier represents the front end of another pickup or SUV.

Ratings reflect injury measures recorded on two instrumented SID-IIs dummies representing 5th percentile women, assessment of head protection countermeasures, and the vehicle’s structural performance during the impact.

It isn’t just the small pickups that leave a lot to be desired in side tests. Results of IIHS tests of big pickup trucks were disappointing when it came to driver protection.

For more information regarding this article please contact:

Jeffrey Marquart