September 20, 2005

Most mini-van head restraints rated ‘poor’

Arlington, Virginia – The seat/head restraints in most current minivan models are marginal or poor, indicating they wouldn’t provide adequate protection from whiplash injuries for many people in rear-end collisions, according to recent evaluations by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Starting points for the Institutes ratings are measurements of head restraint geometry – the height of a restraint and its horizontal distance behind the back of the head of an average-size man. The Institute doesn’t test seats with head restraints that are rated marginal or poor for geometry because such seats cannot be positioned to protect many taller people. The seats that weren’t tested in this group include all of those in the Chevrolet Astro, GMC Safari, Mazda MPV, and Nissan Quest plus some seats in the Grand Caravan and Toyota Sienna.

Seats with good or acceptable restraint geometry then are tested dynamically using a dummy that measures forces on the neck. This test simulates a collision in which a stationary vehicle is struck in the rear at 20 mph. Among the seat/head restraints that were tested dynamically, those in the Honda Odyssey are rated marginal overall. All seats in the Chevrolet Uplander (also sold as Buick Terazza, Pontiac Montana SV6, and Saturn Relay) and some in the Grand Caravan/Town & Country and Toyota Sienna are rated poor.
Seat/head restraint combinations in the Ford Freestar and its twin Mercury Monterey earned good overall ratings. Those in some Dodge Grand Caravan/Chrysler Town & Country models are rated acceptable.

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