Minivans Fail Basic Safety Tests, Especially Overlap Crash Tests
A consumer protection and insurance company tested four of the most popular minivans in the US and found that the vehicles performed poorly in crash tests, especially overlapping front bumper safety tests.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety announced on Thursday, November 20th, that of four models of minivan sold in the US, only the Honda Odyssey received a “good” rating. The Nissan Quest, the Chrysler Town and Country, and the Dodge Caravan all received the lowest ratings on the crash test.
Minivans have been a popular vehicle type for families for years, due to their size and their expectations of safety. However, the IIHS revealed that the notion that minivans are safer than sedans or SUVs is simply untrue.
“Minivans are popular among parents, a group that tends to be safety conscious, but we’ve only seen two so far that offer decent protection in small overlap crashes,” says David Zuby, IIHS executive vice president and chief research officer.
The crash tests used dummies in the vehicles to measure potential personal injury to drivers and passengers. The cars were slammed into objects to replicate might what occur during a 40 mile-per-hour crash into a utility pole or another vehicle. The safety tests showed that crash forces bypassed the main energy-absorbing structure of the vehicle, which could lead to terrible personal injury for the driver or front-seat passenger.
The IIHS determined that the problem stemmed from the framework of the minivans themselves. Minivans are built on car platforms, but the doors, engine, and trunk all extend out further than the underlying frame. Much of the vehicle is located outside of the main safety structure. Minivans are also heavier than cars.
While some minivan manufacturers, like Toyota, are already taking steps to make their vehicles more resilient in these types of crashes, the damage done from overlap crashes during the test was shown to be truly devastating. For example, in the Nissan Quest’s crash test, the structure was pushed almost 2 feet inward at the lower hinge pillar, and the parking brake moved 16 inches – almost a foot and a half – toward the driver. Both of the driver dummy’s legs were pinned – the left was trapped between the seat and instrument panel, while the right was caught between the brake pedal and the toe pan. After the test, technicians had to cut the entire driver’s side seat out, then use the crowbar to free the right foot.
Although the Quest received good markings for its safety belt and airbag restraints, that safety measurement was compared only to keeping the dummy’s body in place while the rest of the vehicle was crushed inward.
“That kept the measured risk of head injury low, but that’s about the extent of what can be expected from the restraint system when the basic structure collapses so completely,” Zuby says. “A real person experiencing this would be lucky to ever walk normally again.”
The Town and Country minivans failed in a similarly catastrophic manner during the crash test.
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