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Are small pickup trucks safe?

Pickup truck safety
Pickup truck safety 01:36

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety is out with ratings on eight small pickup trucks.

"Mainly we're looking at the area around where the driver sits and that crushed in around him, leaving him less survival space,"  David Zuby of IIHS told CBS News.

The most challenging category is the small overlap test, which imitates driving down a two-lane road and a car coming in the opposite direction swerves into the other lane. 

"You try to avoid it but you don't quite steer enough to miss that car and you end up having an overlap crash," Zuby explained.

Tesla Model 3 01:51

The Toyota Tacoma double cab scored the highest in that test -- and ranked highest overall, earning good ratings on structure, restraints and injury measures.  The "crew cab" versions of the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon also got high marks.

The Nissan Frontier small pickup truck had the lowest overall rating in the new safety evaluation. 

Even though four of eight of the small pickups got a good overall rating, they all fell short of the top safety awards, in part because the IIHS says all of them have poor headlights. When driving at night, if the headlights don't help enough with visibility, the organization assigns lower ratings.

IIHS says small pickups are getting safer, but that large pickups will still offer better protection in a crash. 

With few exceptions, U.S. buyers have continued a trend they've been following for years. They're buying SUVs and trucks and shunning cars. Auto shopping site said the average price paid for a new vehicle in July was $34,558, or 2 percent higher than the same month a year ago. GM said sales of its recently updated GMC Acadia SUV jumped 30 percent, while sales of Toyota's RAV4 SUV rose 36 percent to more than 41,800, a monthly record.

Meanwhile, car sales are plummeting, hurt by low gas prices and changing tastes. Sales of the Ford Fusion midsize sedan dropped 42 percent, while sales of the Chevrolet Spark subcompact fell a whopping 82 percent. 

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