Some Minivans May Be More Dangerous for Passengers Than for Drivers
Some Minivans May Be More Dangerous for Passengers Than for Drivers

How badly can you be hurt in a minivan crash? The answer, according to a new study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), depends not only on what kind of minivan you’re in, but also whether you’re the driver or the passenger.

The IIHS recently conducted tests on three popular minivans and discovered that some are better than others at protecting passengers, according to a Consumer Reports article.

The institute rated the Honda Odyssey tops of the three, giving it a “good” rating for passenger safety. The Chrysler Pacifica was deemed “acceptable.” At the bottom of the pack, the Toyota Sienna’s “marginal” rating was attributed to the risk of potential leg injuries. (There are four possible IIHS ratings: “good,” “acceptable,” “marginal,” and “poor.”)

The IIHS ran all three minivans through its latest test, called the passenger-side small-overlap crash test, which rams the vehicle into a barrier at 40 mph with just 25 percent of the vehicle’s front end overlapping the barrier on the passenger side.

The test is designed to replicate the collision of the front passenger-side corner of a vehicle with another vehicle or with an obstacle, such as a tree or utility pole, according to Consumer Reports. The test, introduced last year, is similar to a test the IIHS was already conducting which studied vehicle impacts on the driver’s side.

“We developed the test after it became clear that some manufacturers weren’t making improvements to both the driver and the passenger’s side” in protecting vehicle occupants during crashes, said IIHS Senior Research Engineer Becky Mueller.

The new test grabbed the attention of auto manufacturers once it became clear that some older minivans, designed before the passenger-side test was launched, would not fare well.

In response to the latest test, a Toyota spokesperson told Consumer Reports, “The IIHS passenger-side small overlap test is a severe, specialized test that goes beyond federal vehicle safety requirements. However, after the introduction of the small overlap test, Toyota has taken steps to improve the performance of its vehicles in the test.”

Toyota’s Sienna minivan is rated “acceptable” overall for its protection on the driver’s side, in contrast to its “marginal” rating for passenger safety. Starting in 2015, Toyota began making safety improvements to the driver’s side structure, but did not make the same changes to the passenger’s side, the IIHS explained.

“Looking ahead, we’ve incorporated enhancements on both the driver’s and passenger’s side,” the Toyota spokesperson told Consumer Reports.

Although, as a Chrysler Fiat spokesperson told Consumer Reports, “no single test determines vehicle safety,” it is still very much a reality that faulty or substandard equipment is to blame in many auto accidents, and the vehicle’s manufacturer can be found liable for damages. Product liability claims can involve manufacturing defects in vehicles or vehicle parts, as well as vehicles that have an “unreasonably dangerous design.” The latter category includes vehicles that were not “defective” per se, but have a design that could lead to injury or other damages.

Victims of vehicle accidents should explore every possible avenue for compensation. Often, another driver is liable, but auto manufacturers (or manufacturers of auto parts) may also be partially responsible for damages or injuries. If you think this may be the case for you or a loved one, contact the experienced vehicle accident attorneys at Evans Law Firm for a free consultation.