Study shows minivans fail to make grade when protecting backseat passengers

OHIO — New research shows minivans are coming up short when it comes to protecting some passengers.

>>RELATED: IIHS ratings show most minivans need better seatbelt reminders

A new round of crash tests shows kids in the back seat of a minivan are less likely to be protected in a crash than those in the front seat, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

News Center 7′s Taylor Robertson says the results of the crash test showed that the minivans do a decent job of protecting the driver but got a lower grade when it came to how safe the back seat was.

In the new round of tests, there were four types of minivans that crashed into a barrier at 40 miles per hour (MPH).

The four types were:

  • Chrysler Pacifica
  • Kia Carnival
  • Toyota Sienna
  • Honda Odyssey

None of the four minivans evaluated earned an acceptable or good rating in the updated moderate overlap front crash test, which now emphasizes back seat safety, IIHS said.

>>RELATED: Six popular midsize SUVs score poor marks on rear-seat safety

Robertson reports the risk of deadly injury is 46% higher for people in the injury, according to IIHS.

Researchers found that the seatbelts in the back seat either put too much pressure on the chest or slid up, which increased the risk of abdominal injuries.

The Chrysler Pacifica, Kia Carnival, and Toyota Sienna are rated marginal while the Honda Odyssey is rated poor.

All but the Sienna also lacked seat belt reminders for the second-row seats, an earlier IIHS test showed.

>>RELATED: 2/3 of drivers are distracted while driving, IIHS report says

In the test, a second dummy was seen positioned in the second row behind the driver in the back seat.

The driver dummy is the size of an average adult male and the rear dummy is the size of a small woman or 12-year-old child.

IIHS researchers also developed new metrics that focused on the injuries most frequently seen in backseat passengers.

They also said for a vehicle to earn a good rating, there cannot be an excessive risk of injury to the head, neck, chest, or thigh.

The test dummy should remain correctly positioned during the crash without either submarining or sliding forward beneath the lap belt, which increases the risk of abdominal injuries, according to IIHS.

The head should also remain a safe distance from the front seatback and the rest of the vehicle interior, the shoulder belt should remain on the shoulder.

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Jessica Jermakian, Vice President of Vehicle Research for IIHS, said this new test is exposing this problem for the first time.

“The results are disappointing because customers buy minivans to transport their families,” she said.

Robertson says they want seatbelts in the back to have the same pretensioners, and load limiters found in the front seat.

“A pretensioner tightens the belt on the occupant, coupling them to the vehicle and helping them ride down the crash and the load limiter reduces the forces on the chest,” said Jermakian.

Research shows the front seat has become safer because of improved airbags and advanced seatbelts that are rarely available in the back, IIHS said.

Even with these developments, they said the back seat remains the safest place for children, who can be injured by an inflating front airbag, and the rating does not apply to children secured properly in child safety seats.

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