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Warning: Avoid Telephone Poles in Minivans

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On: Sat, Nov 22, 2014 at 9:09AM | By: Karen Cook


Warning: Avoid Telephone Poles in Minivans

At some point in our lives most of us reach the time to have a family. Time to stop hitting the bars on Friday night and trade in the snazzy red two-seater for a “family car”. For a large percentage of parents that means a minivan. There are lots of choices in this vehicle that offers room for children, friends, and overnight bags, as well as soccer equipment and groceries. But do they offer safety? Being the epitome of the family car, one would think so. The latest tests from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) throw that assumption into question.

There were five vans recently tested in the small overlap crash test which simulates what happens when a vehicle collides with a narrow object like a telephone pole . (going 40mph (The car, not the pole.). Vehicles must score a “good” or “acceptable” to earn the Top Safety Pick award. These are the results:

• The only minivan to receive a score of “good” was the Honda Odyssey, meaning that its passengers receive a high level of protection in this type of collision.

• The Toyota Sienna garnered an “acceptable” rating. Even though it allowed a fair amount of intrusion at the upper door hinge, the side airbags protected the passengers from injury.

• The Dodge Grand Caravan, Chrysler Town & Country, and Nissan Quest all scored “poor” on the test. The Chrysler allowed major intrusion at the pillars which caused damage to the crash test dummy. The airbags did not cover enough of the dummy to protect it. The Dodge is an identical body style to the Chrysler and presumably would have the same weakness. The Nissan passengers would have fared worst of the group. During the test it sustained severe structural damage and trapped the leg of the dummy with the detonated side airbag. The IIHS deemed it highly likely that this would have resulted in severe leg injury in a human passenger.

• The Kia Sedona was not tested as Kia requested time to make some structural changes in hopes of scoring higher on the overlap test.

Why do minivans have such a difficult time with this test? The answer is that a minivan is built on a car platform but then widened to accommodate more passengers. According to IIHS executive vice president and chief research officer David Zuby, minivans are popular among parents, a group that tends to be safety conscious, however, he added “we’ve seen only two (minivans) so far that offer decent protection in small overlap crash tests.”

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