Wednesday, June 19, 2024
NewsMinivans Fall Short on Rear-Seat Safety in Latest IIHS Tests

Minivans Fall Short on Rear-Seat Safety in Latest IIHS Tests

Updated Crash Tests Reveal Deficiencies in Second-Row Occupant Protection

Despite their reputation as family-friendly vehicles, recent tests by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) show that minivans are not meeting the grade for second-row safety. None of the four minivans tested—Chrysler Pacifica, Kia Carnival, Toyota Sienna, and Honda Odyssey—achieved an acceptable or good rating in the updated moderate overlap front crash test, which now includes more emphasis on back-seat safety.

(R-L) 2021 Honda Odyssey, 2021 Toyota Sienna, 2022 Kia Carnival, 2021 Chrysler Pacifica
(R-L) 2021 Honda Odyssey, 2021 Toyota Sienna, 2022 Kia Carnival, 2021 Chrysler Pacifica | Photo: Olivier Delorme

The IIHS introduced the updated test protocols last year, after research indicated that the risk of a fatal injury is higher for second-row occupants than for those in the front seat in newer vehicles. This increased risk isn’t due to deteriorating safety in the second row; rather, it’s because front-seat safety features have improved, with advancements in airbags and seat belts that are seldom available in the rear.

In these new testing protocols, a second dummy is placed in the second row behind the driver, with the driver dummy being the size of an average adult man and the rear dummy sized like a small woman or a 12-year-old child. A host of new metrics were also developed to focus on injuries commonly sustained by back-seat passengers.

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To achieve a good rating, the vehicle’s restraint systems must keep the second-row dummy adequately protected, avoiding excessive risk to the head, neck, chest, and thigh regions. Criteria such as the dummy’s positioning and measurements for force exerted by seat belts and airbags are also considered.

All four minivans performed well in protecting the front seat occupants but showed multiple issues in second-row safety. Jessica Jermakian, IIHS vice president of vehicle research, noted that all four vehicles rendered second-row occupants vulnerable to potentially life-threatening chest injuries due to either excessive belt forces or poor belt positioning.

Among the minivans, only the Toyota Sienna comes equipped with belt pretensioners and force limiters, technologies designed to moderate belt forces. However, in tests, the rear dummy submarined under the lap belt, and the shoulder belt moved off the shoulder towards the neck. In the Kia Carnival and Chrysler Pacifica, the seat belt exerted too much force on the rear dummy’s chest. Furthermore, the Pacifica’s side curtain airbag failed to deploy. The Honda Odyssey fared worst, allowing the dummy’s head to come dangerously close to the front seatback.

David Harkey, President of IIHS, expressed disappointment that minivans, vehicles specifically chosen by consumers to transport families, have lagged in applying advanced safety technology to second-row seating. While the ratings do not apply to children secured in child safety seats, the back seat remains the safest place for them, stressing the urgent need for improvements in second-row safety features.

Ratings in updated moderate overlap front test: minivans

Driver injury measuresRear passenger injury measures
Overall ratingStructure & safety cageHead & neckChestKnee & thighLeg & footDriver restraints & kinematicsHead & neckChestThighRear passenger restraints & kinematics
2023 Chrysler PacificaMGGGGGGAMGA
2023 Kia CarnivalMGGGGGGMMGA
2023 Toyota SiennaMGGGGAGGMGP
2023 Honda OdysseyPGGGGGGPMGA
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Matt St-Pierre
Matt St-Pierre
Trained as an Automotive Technician, Matt has two decades of automotive journalism under his belt. He’s done TV, radio, print and this thing called the internet. He’s an avid collector of many 4-wheeled things, all of them under 1,500 kg, holds a recently expired racing license and is a father of two. Life is beautiful. Send Matt an emai


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