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Pickups are getting bigger, creating danger for other drivers, pedestrians

Keith Barry, a Consumer Reports Auto Editor, joins us to discuss how increasing the size of pickup trucks increases blind spots.

Maybe you’ve noticed them on the highway or in a parking lot and wondered: Are pickup trucks getting bigger and bigger? Consumer Reports says the answer is yes and warns bigger trucks can cause big dangers to other drivers and pedestrians.

Pickup trucks account for 1 of every 5 new vehicles sold. In fact, the best-selling vehicle in North America is a pickup truck. But a Consumer Reports analysis of industry data from 2000 to 2018 found passenger trucks to be 11 percent higher and 24 percent heavier.

CONSUMER REPORTS: The hidden danger of big trucks

With that increased heft comes increased dangers. Consumer Reports data found these big trucks have poorer front sightlines, bigger blind spots that can hide a pedestrian or smaller car right in front.

“Because of their height and long hoods, we found that some trucks had front blind spots 11 feet longer than those in some sedans and 7 feet longer than in many popular SUVs, which increases the risk of the driver running over someone in front of them that they cannot see,” explained Consumer Reports Auto Editor Keith Barry.

An analysis from advocacy group KidsandCars.org found most fatalities in these kinds of crashes were children between 12 and 23 months old.

A pickup’s tall front end and higher bumper are also more likely to cause serious injuries upon impact than the bumper of a lower vehicle. And trucks are more likely to push a pedestrian down and run them over.

So Consumer Reports asked manufacturers: “Why have your pickups grown so tall?”

Stellantis -- the parent company of Ram -- declined to comment. Ford and GM said the changes were driven by consumer preference and the big trucks needed larger grilles to support engine cooling when towing trailers. But Consumer Reports claims there might be another reason: Trucks make automakers a lot of money.

“Despite these risks, automakers are reluctant to make changes to a vehicle that is a major source of profit. Trucks with luxurious amenities have prices that are far above $60,000, and an automaker might make four to five times more money from selling a pickup than a sedan,” Barry said.

Can anything be done to make these trucks safer? Consumer Reports says mandatory advanced safety technology such as automatic emergency braking could help, as could reducing speed limits and designing roads that are safer for pedestrians and cyclists in the first place.

CONSUMER REPORTS: Compact SUVS from $25,000-$35,000 with standard active safety systems

Consumer Reports knows some jobs really do require a big truck, but for someone who only needs one once in a while, Consumer Reports suggests renting. Some local car rental companies offer big trucks, and home and garden stores rent them as well.