The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety tested four popular small cars on the market (Chrysler Pacifica, Kia Carnival, Toyota Sienna and Honda Odyssey) and found alarming results.
Frontal crash testing now places special emphasis on rear-seat occupant safety after the IIHS found that improvements in front-seat safety increased the risk of fatal injuries for second-row seat belt occupants. than those who sat in front.
But the Chrysler Pacifica, Kia Carnival and Toyota Sienna failed to earn a “good” rating for rear seat safety in the test, instead earning a “mediocre” rating, while the Honda Odyssey earned a “poor” rating.
To conduct the test, IIHS engineers placed a dummy the size of a 12-year-old child in the back seat and crashed the car into a stationary barrier. The “good” rating, which no model was able to achieve, means that the dummy must survive an impact without injuring the head, neck, chest or hips. It must also remain in the correct position and not “float” under the belt of the seat, and the head of the dummy must maintain a safe distance from the back of the seat in front of it.
Although all four minivans offered good protection for front seat occupants, all rear seat occupants were at risk of chest injuries from seat belts that were too taut or improperly positioned. Only the Sienna received seat belt boosters and power restraints, but that advantage was negated when the dummy slipped under the lap belt and shoulder belt crushing her neck.
Carnival and Pacifica did not have restraints and transferred most of the force to the chest of the dummy, and Chrysler’s curtain airbag was not installed.