Ensuring Safety in the Backseat: Protecting Lives in Pickup Trucks

January 5, 2024 | Michael S. Callahan
Pickup Truck Backseat Safety

As the popularity of large pickup trucks grows for both work and personal use, safeguarding the well-being of all passengers has never been more crucial. Shockingly, recent tests carried out by the esteemed Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) have exposed a troubling truth: certain popular pickup trucks fail to provide adequate protection to backseat passengers in specific crash scenarios.

The consequences can be devastating, resulting in grave injuries and even tragic fatalities. With backseat safety emerging as a pressing concern in many trucks, it is paramount for drivers to comprehend the risks at hand and proactively take measures to shield themselves and their passengers.

IIHS Study – Insufficient Protection For Backseat Passengers in Four Large Pickup Trucks

According to an Insurance Institute For Highway Safety (IIHS) study, four large pickup trucks (all 2023 models) – Stellantis Ram 1500 crew cab, Ford F-150 crew cab, General Motors, Chevrolet Silverado 1500, and Toyota Tundra crew cab – were found to provide insufficient protection to back seat passengers in selected crash tests (though the Toyota Tundra performed better than the other three).

Front seat safety measures, such as advanced airbags and seatbelts, are generally given more focus and often don’t extend their advantages to back seat passengers. This lack of safety features leaves those sitting in the back at higher risk of injuries and fatalities in the event of an accident.

Why Are Back Seats More Dangerous?

One might assume that the passengers sitting at the back in a large vehicle like a pickup truck would be relatively safer. However, this is not the case. In fact, the IIHS study highlights that backseat passengers in pickup trucks are more vulnerable due to the absence of certain safety features that protect front-seat occupants. This includes advanced airbags and improved seatbelts, which are commonly found in other types of vehicles.


In all four trucks, backseat passengers were at risk of sliding under their seatbelts during a collision—an occurrence known as submarining. This phenomenon dramatically increases the chances of severe abdominal injuries, even when passengers are wearing their seatbelts.

But why does submarining happen? One contributing factor is the design of pickup truck seats, which may be relatively flat and bench-like. When combined with inadequate seatbelt angles or positioning, these factors create a perfect storm that allows passengers to slide under their restraints during an accident.

Common Injuries in Pickup Truck Back Seats

When riding in the backseat of a pickup truck, it’s important to be aware of the potential risks. Recent studies by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) have shed light on the types of injuries passengers in the backseats of some popular pickup trucks might face.

Chest Injuries

The IIHS found that passengers in the backseats of certain pickup trucks, like the F-150 and Ram 1500, are at a higher risk of chest injuries. In a crash, the force can impact a passenger’s chest area more severely, potentially leading to serious injuries.

Head and Neck Injuries

The same tests showed that these trucks also have a higher likelihood of passengers sustaining head or neck injuries. Injuries to the head or neck can be especially concerning because they can lead to long-term health issues, such as traumatic brain injuries.

Comparing The Models

Not all trucks have the same risk levels. For example, the Chevrolet Silverado showed a somewhat lower risk for these injuries, but it still wasn’t up to the ideal safety standards.

The Toyota Tundra presented a different case. While the risk of chest injuries was still high, mainly due to the way the seat belt fits a passenger, the risk for head and neck injuries was only slightly above normal.

Other Common Injuries in Pickup Truck Accidents

Several other types of injuries may occur in a pickup truck accident, and understanding these risks can help you take the necessary precautions and seek proper compensation in case of an accident. Some common injuries include:

  • Burns: Pickup trucks typically have larger fuel tanks, and fuel leaks in an accident can lead to vehicle fires and serious burn injuries.
  • Spinal cord injuries: The force from an accident can lead to severe spinal cord injuries, which can have life-altering consequences, such as paralysis.
  • Fractures and broken bones: Arms, legs, ribs, and other bones are all at risk during a vehicular accident.
  • Whiplash: This injury occurs when the head and neck are suddenly and forcefully thrown forward and backward, often due to a rear-end collision or a sudden stop. Whiplash can lead to long-lasting pain and a range of complications.

While pickup trucks offer utility and versatility, it’s crucial to recognize the broad spectrum of injuries that can occur in accidents involving these vehicles.

How to Improve Backseat Safety in Your Pickup Truck

While these findings may be concerning, there are several steps you can take to improve the safety of your pickup truck’s backseat for yourself, your family, and your passengers:

  1. Ensure seat belts are properly positioned and functioning: Regularly inspect the seat belts in the back row for any signs of wear or malfunction. Ensure they are properly positioned to secure occupants, and consider using belt-positioning devices if needed.
  2. Use appropriate child safety seats: Make sure that children are in the correct type of child safety seat for their age, weight, and height. Always follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for installation and use.
  3. Consider aftermarket safety upgrades: Some companies offer aftermarket seat belt and airbag systems designed to improve the safety of your vehicle’s backseat. While these options may be an additional expense, the peace of mind they provide could be well worth the investment.
  4. Stay informed about recalls: Keep up-to-date on any recalls or safety notices related to your pickup truck’s make and model. These notifications can alert you to potential safety hazards or recommended fixes to help maintain the safety of your vehicle.
  5. Research new vehicles thoroughly: If you’re in the market for a new pickup truck, be sure to research and consider backseat safety ratings when making your decision. While it may not be the only factor in your purchase, prioritizing safety for your passengers is crucial.

While certain pickup trucks may present specific safety challenges, these are some of the proactive measures you can take to enhance your safety, ensuring a more secure and confident driving experience for you and your passengers.

Seek Legal Help After an Accident

If you or a loved one have sustained injuries in a pickup truck accident, seeking the assistance of a qualified personal injury attorney is crucial. At The Callahan Law Firm, our lawyers can help you navigate the complex process of filing an injury claim, ensuring that you receive fair and just compensation for your damages, including medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Our truck and car accident lawyers serve clients throughout Texas. We also have offices in Houston and Pasadena. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation with one of our experienced truck and car accident lawyers.

Talk to an Experienced Texas Personal Injury Lawyer Now

After a serious accident, your focus should be on your health and your family. Let our attorneys handle everything else. Contact The Callahan Law Firm now for a free review of your case. Our attorneys are here to answer your questions and explain your legal options.