2008 Toyota Tundra CrewMax 5.7L V8 6-Spd AT SR5 (Natl) Side Exterior ViewEnlarge Photo
2008 Nissan Titan 4WD Crew Cab SWB LE Side Exterior ViewEnlarge Photo
"The dramatic reductions in SUV death rates went along with the rapid introduction of standard ESC on those vehicles, while pickups lagged behind in getting that feature," commented Rader. For instance, in 2006, when stability control was standard on nearly two thirds of all SUVs, it was a standard feature in just one percent of pickups and not at all available on 83 percent of them. Even by 2009 it was only standard on 38 percent of pickups and optional on another 19 percent of them—at a time when 100 percent of SUVs got it standard.Rader points to an abrupt improvement in the Toyota Tundra's record as soon as Toyota made electronic stability control standard: "Single-vehicle rollover deaths were essentially eliminated in the Tundra," he said. Even on models where stability control was available, take rates have been extremely low, Rader said.
According to the IIHS, all these figures were adjusted for age, gender, and rural versus urban environments. "Still, it's not possible to dial out all factors, so some of it is how and where pickups are driven," said Rsder. There's also the difference in vehicle tuning—especially comparing a pickup to a more carlike crossover SUV that's been optimized for emergency maneuvers with passengers, versus long-haul load-bearing.
In addition to the ESC factor, the types of people who buy Nissan Titan trucks might be far different than the types who buy Toyota Tundras. The Titan, certainly, is only offered with a V-8 and is marketed more toward personal and recreational use. What's more, perhaps Titan owners are more likely to heavily load (or overload) their trucks.
With different vehicles, different driver behavior?
"The adjusted driver death rates do a better job of teasing out differences among vehicles, but they can only go so far," said Anne McCartt, the Institute's senior vice president for research. "For one thing, people don't behave the same when they're behind the wheel of a sports car as when they're driving a minivan. And some people are more susceptible to injury and death for reasons that can't completely be adjusted for."
One other point, which the IIHS points out in its latest Status Report newsletter, accompanying these results, is that while there's no doubt that electronic stability control systems—now included in all trucks and SUVs—are saving lives, their benefits are much greater on some models than on others. For instance, the IIHS companion organization, the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI), found that stability control was linked to a 44-percent reduction in claims for the Toyota 4Runner yet just a five-percent reduction on the also-tall Honda Element. Overall, stability control does reduce fatal single-vehicle crash risk by nearly 50 percent.
We're eager to see how the numbers improve for pickups—and how many lives are saved in the process.
To sum, while absolute crash-test protection, size, and weight are factors, the use of the vehicle can complicate our ability to simply hold one model up to another. Be sure to check IIHS and NHTSA crash-test ratings as a starting point, but don't hesitate to consider fatality rates and the true history of the model as well. And keep the comments and questions coming—thanks!