FHWA has issued a final rule in response to Section 1073 of the Inter-modal Surface Transportation and Efficiency Act of 1991 legislation requiring rule-making on revised guidelines and standards for acceptable roadside barriers and other safety appurtenances to accommodate vans, minivans, pickup trucks, and four-wheel-drive vehicles. This rule lists NCHRP Report 350 for guidance in determining the acceptability of roadside safety devices. NCHRP Report 350 recommends use of a ¾-ton pickup as a replacement for the previously used 4500-lb car in roadside safety device crash tests. The question of whether there are differences in relative safety experiences in crashes with roadside safety hardware by vehicle body type is addressed by using data from North Carolina, Michigan, and the Fatal Accident Reporting System, General Estimates System, and R. L. Polk vehicle registration files.
The data suggest that the practical worst-case test philosophy of current roadside safety device evaluation procedures has provided about the same level of protection to drivers of pickups, light vans, and utility vehicles as to passenger car drivers if the measure of safety is to be the likelihood of serious (fatal plus incapacitating) injuries. If, on the other hand, the measure of safety is to be the likelihood of fatalities, this does not appear to be the case: drivers of pickups were found to be at greater risk. The likely reason for the greater risk of fatalities found for pickup drivers is ejection in rollovers. Programs to increase seat belt use and other measures to reduce ejection rates in rollovers of pickups should be considered to reduce this risk.
John G. Viner, Forrest M. Council, and J. Richard Stewart. Frequency and Severity of Crashes Involving Roadside Safety Hardware by Vehicle Type, Transportation Research Record 1468, TRB, National Research Council, Washington D.C., 1994.