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  1. #1

    SUV/Minivan 3rd row safety

    All of the crash test results seem to test head on and side impacts. I'm wondering how safe my children would be (assuming they are in properly installed booster seats), in the 3rd row of a SUV (MDX/Pilot) or minivan (Caravan/Grand Caravan/Odyssey/Sienna).

    Are there any statistics?

    What happens if the side impact is towards the rear where they are sitting?

    What happens if I get rear-ended by someone going 25mph?

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  3. #2

    Re: SUV/Minivan 3rd row safety

    First the good news:

    Rear impacts are not very common- only about 4% to 7% of all fatal crashes according to most sources. Extremely severe rear impacts are even more rare, since most rear-enders are low speed fender benders.

    Now the bad news-

    There is recent concern that a moderate to severe rear-ender could cause the seat back to fail in some vehicles with third row seating. That, combined with the close proximity of the third row to the rear in some minivans and SUVs could be very dangerous.

    What you can do:

    If you will frequently have passengers in the third row, look for a vehicle with more than a few inches from the third row to the rear hatch.

    Also, look for vehicles that have lap+shoulder belts and adequate head restraints in all third row positions.

    Children in a harnessed carseat are probably safer than an adult or a child in a seatbelt/booster when seated in the third row. First, their light weight will reduce the load on the seat back, and reduce the chances that it would fail. Second, a 5-point harness will greatly reduce the chance of ejection and the shell will give additional protection from intrusion.

    This article has some more information, but unfortunately it also contains a lot of "shock" value with few published statistics to back it up. So, while the intent is good, do take it with a grain of salt:

    You also touch on the important side impact issue. These are typically more common and more severe than rear impacts. Plus, there is usually little more protection for a passenger in an outside seating postion from a side impact than there is for a passenger in a third row from a rear impact. For these reasons, there is some thought to be put into which child is seated in which position if you have more than one.

    Generally, we like to put the child who is least protected in the most protected position. A child in a seatbelt or booster is the least protected, followed by a child in a front-facing harnessed carseat. A child in a rear-facing carseat is most protected from frontal, offset and side impacts. So, you would tend to put older children in the center positions if possible. Of course, the fit of your child and carseats may not allow that in all cases. If you are interested, please post the ages and weights of your children, the brand and model of your carseats, and the year and type of your vehicle and we can try to help you figure out what is best for your situation!

    Personally, I have no issue with putting my kids in the third row of our Honda Odyssey. There's almost two feet to the back, and in a harnessed carseat I think they are well protected. On the other hand, I'd be very worried if I was personally in a smaller SUV or minivan with only a few inches to the back, especially if it didn't have a headrest or shoulder belt in my position.

    I hope that helps!

  4. #3

    buying new

    I'm shopping for a new vehicle. My requirements in iorder of importance are:
    1. Safety
    2. seats 6 comfortably
    3. prefer > 20 mpg
    4. Shopping around 30K
    5. I Like AWD but will pass on it if a vehicle without AWD outshines the competition in the other 4 categories.

    I have 2 children; 40lb 4 yo, 25 lb 2 yo and another on the way. My 4yo is in a Century Brevera Booster Car Seat, My 2 yo is in a Century Newborn/Toddler seat (don't know the model).

    Before your reply, I was considering MDX, Pilot, Odyssey, Grand Caravan and Sienna. Now that I've read the USA Today article I need a Suburban.. well.. actually that's too big.

    I was leaning towards the MDX/Pilot because they didn't feel as big as the extended wheel base vans. I figured I l'd keep the 3 kids in the second row and move 1 or 2 to the 3rd row when I had extra people on board. Now I think I would be scared to drive to the Supermarket with anyone in the 3rd row.

    If I get a van I will be using the 3rd row seat 100% of the time. It seems like the Odyssey and Grand Caravan are my best options. How do you feel about the seat strength of your fold down 3rd row seat in the Ody? Any idea where I might find out if the NHTSA thinks my kids are safe in the 3rd row seat of either of these vans?

    The only other car that comes to mind that might my requirements is the new Ford Expedition. That doesn't meet my mpg requirements and looks really big.

    Thanks for your reply and suggestions.

  5. #4

    Crash tests...

    NHTSA (govt run) tests
    Insurance Inst for Highway Safety tests

    Those may help you see how the vehicles you are interested in compare. Verify that there are headrests and shoulder-lap belts in the center of any bench seat (many vehicles do not have proper head restraints &/or belts in that position, making it adequate only for a child seat, not for an older child in booster or adult passenger).

    Additionally, make sure that there is enough cargo space with all the seats you will need to use in place. I made the mistake of assuming a "larger" vehicle meant more room; we got a Saturn wagon! Well, we have less passenger *and* less cargo space than if we'd gotten a Toyota Camry! Our stroller (a Peg Perego Pliko umbrella stroller) *barely* fits in the trunk lenghth-wise. Doing 2 weeks worth of groceries with the stroller back there can be a squeeze, so that sometimes we have to carry some groceries up front. I suggest you confirm that if you go out with the entire family, you'll be able to fit everything you usually bring (stroller, diaper bag, toys, etc.) in the vehicle as well.

    Good luck!

  6. #5

    I think all of your choices are very good-

    Like I said, that article has a lot of hype. You have to keep in mind that severe rear impacts are very rare and that children in carseats have good protection and are less likely to load the seat. A small child isn't likely to cause a seat failure, and their carseat is going to keep them from being ejected and protect their head from intrusion. There are no guarantees, of course, if a large bus hits you in the rear doing 60 mph, that is likely to be unsurvivable in any vehicle's third row seat...

    Sure, you can get a Suburban, but there are safety issues with that as well. To start, they have inferior handling and braking. The higher rollover risk is a major concern. Stiff truck frames do not crush, and do not perform well in crashes with other large trucks and SUVs or in single vehicle crashes with walls or poles. Many large SUVs lack some of the advanced safety features found in cars and minivans, and most don't have a complete set of crash tests. An extra foot of space to the rear does not even come close to outweighing these other factors for me. On the other hand, if you regularly tow over a couple thousand pounds or do SERIOUS off-roading, something like a Suburban or Expedition is a much better choice.

    I think you should test drive the vehicles you mentioned. If the rear seat concerns you, keep your booster-aged 4 year old in a high back booster or something like a Britax Super Elite. Otherwise, keep them in the second row.

    In regard to safety, the Odyssey and Sienna are top of the pack for crashworthiness. The MDX also has great ratings so far, but the NHTSA frontal crash tests are not yet published. The Pilot should be similar to these, since it is based on the same chassis as both Odyssey and MDX. Grand Caravan also does reasonably well, though not quite as well as the Odyssey or Sienna. The IIHS gave it a marginal offset crash test rating unless it is equipped with the optional side airbags, then it gets an Acceptable rating. Overall, I think all these vehicles will be safer than almost any sedan on the road. Depending on your particular driving circumstances, they may be among the safest vehicles, period.

    The minivans are going to be more comfortable for 6 adults, especially in the third row. Rear seat access is also usually easier in the minivan. Since your 6 includes kids, the SUVs you mentioned will have plenty of room for them in the rear seats.

    I don't think any of these will average over 20 mpg in the city, though the 2WD minivans might be close. All should be above that on the highway.

    AWD is nice. We have a Subaru Outback with a great AWD system and a limited slip in the rear. Excellent traction in just about any conditions. Even so, our Odyssey with traction control has never had a problem, even in snow (Chicago area). With a set of good snow or rain tires, I think a front wheel drive with traction control is a very good poor weather vehicle, though it certainly won't be up to anything more than light offroading.

    The 2003 Expedition is an interesting choice. The wider track adds stability. The independent rear suspension should improve handling. It has a very interesting rollover protection system. I believe it has shoulder belts and head rests in all seating positions. It also has advanced seatbelts and airbags. Of all the large SUVs, the new 2003 Expedition might be the only one I would even consider if I ever did serious towing or offroading. While they look big, the cargo room really isn't all that much bigger than a large minivan, and I doubt the space from the third row to the back is significantly greater, either. At least it wasn't for 2001. Suburban and Excursion are definately bigger, though. Of course, I'd also expect not much over 10 mpg in the city in real-life, whereas my Odyssey gets about 19mpg.

    Also see our minivan guide:

    And my review of the Honda Pilot:

    Good luck!


  7. #6

    Personal note

    Have you taken a look at the Chevrolet Venture LS extended. I have this 2001 van and it has received 4-5 stars in ratings. I average 22 mpg (suburban driving). It has 3 buckle seats in the second roll and a bench in the 3rd. There is extra room behind the 3rd bench seats for additional items. Also the Venture is a little higher then most vans.

    Robert's (opinion)

  8. #7

    Re: SUV/Minivan 3rd row safety

    I have a Venture too. I bought if for the extra room between all the seats as well as the extra space behind the rear seat.

  9. #8

    crash test scores


    I'm a little confused by the crash test scores for the Venture. Maybe I'm not seeing all of the information (I did only spend 2 minutes looking so far).

    The Venture w/SAB seems to have done well for the NHTSA, but it got KILLED by the IIHS. I mean those are the worst results I have ever seen.

    I would love to add this vehicle to my search list, but what do you think (or anyone else) about the different results?


  10. #9

    I recently posted some comments on this issue-

  11. #10
    Registered User 5Phillips_family's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2006

    WHere should my children sit?? HELP!!

    I have 3 children

    1. a 3 year old girl approximately 34 pounds in a Graco car seat. Not a convertable, but a regular 20-65 pound car seat.

    2. a 2 year old boy approximately 30 lbs in the same car seat as his sister.

    3. a 2month old girl approximately 13 pounds in a graco carrier car seat.

    We drive a 2000 Dodge Grand Caravan SE. I currently have our infant behind the driver on the middle bench seat. I hvae our older two in the rear bench seat. Should I remove the headrests? Should I switch them around? HELLLPP!

    I am a very paranoid mother, since being a EMT and ER nurse for 6 years I have seen devastation in it's finest. I want to protect my children as much as possible. I have looked for a latch system on our model and I do not have one, however there are anchors on the floor where you can adjust the seat forward and backward because you can remove them, would it be better for me to anchor my childrens safety seats to them?

    Please feel free to e-mail me with any sound advice. Thank you...

    Christeena Phillips

  12. #11
    Senior Community Member Amaris's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Western New York
    Our neighbors have a Chevy Venture (1999 warner bros) and they were in a severe rear end crash. They had stopped for someone turning left, and the person behind them didn't even slow down. They were rear ended at aprox 55 mph. They have 4 children, so 2 of them were in the 3rd row. Everyone walked away unhurt!! Their van is almost totaled, it came in just under the percentage to be repaired. Needles to say they were scared to death of what they were going to find in the 3rd row after this happened, but all of their children were properly restrained, and though very scared, there were no injuries.

  13. #12
    Carseat Crazy
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Another option is the Ford Freestyle. I have never seen one in person, but it is supposed to seat 6 comfortably and you can get a bench 2nd row (instead of captain's chairs) as an option that gives you an extra seat if you need 7. It comes in AWD. The FWD is rated 20/27 MPG and the AWD is a bit lower. IIHS rates it very highly in safety.
    Ben (2/18/02), FF in Britax Parkway, Britax StarRiser/Comfy and Combi Strollee McKinley
    Julia (9/15/04), FF Graco Nautilus (harnessed)
    Elizabeth (4/27/08), RF Britax RA

  14. #13
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    If you are interested in the ford expedition --- take a look at the Ford Freestyle (its their crossover) I own one and love it! I've put 30,000 miles on it in 14 months and drive 4 kids in carpool, field trips, grandparents, trips to Costco. It really does it all. They've also intergrated lots of Volvo technology in the vehicle so the safety features are there. I would also encourage you to DRIVE IT. My friend told me about it and I didn't think too much about it just looking at it -- but once I drove it-- I really liked it.


  15. #14
    Admin - CPS Technician joolsplus3's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    Chesterfield, VA
    The person looking at the Expedition posted over 4 years ago...I wonder what they bought?

    The only new poster is Christeena... I think you should post in the car seats section up top for lots of really good input on your seats (and I'm sure we'd love your perspective as and EMT up there!). Your rear row is perfectly safe if your seats are installed properly, though.

    CPST since 2003, pu"R"ple since 2008, three kids growing too fast since 1997, 1999 and 2006

    Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good



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