When it comes to buying a car, numerous studies have shown that safety is on the short list of things every car shopper takes into consideration. Its ranking may shift depending on your lifestyle, but it's almost always in the top three things that sway a car purchase, along with fuel economy and performance. For families, however, safety is typically the top priority, which is why parents will be pleased to hear that five of the seven 2012 model year minivans tested have received the top safety rating by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, or IIHS.
The 2012 Chrysler Town & Country, Dodge Grand Caravan and Volkswagen Routan all recently received the Top Safety Pick designation from the IIHS. The three models, all of which are built on the same platform, join the 2012 models of the Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna, which received the top rating earlier this year.
The three models received the top rating after all were evaluated for their ability to protect occupants in a rollover crash. These minivans received design changes for the 2012 model year that affected the roof strength, giving it a strength-to-weight ratio of 4.51 in the IIHS' roof strength test.
Two minivans, the Kia Sedona and the Nissan Quest, did not fare as well as in the rollover test. The Sedona received the Institute's lowest rating, poor, and the Quest was rated only "acceptable" by the Institute.
The roof strength rating has been a requirement for the Top Safety Pick since 2010. In addition to the roof strength, cars receiving the top rating must also get the highest scores possible for frontal, side and rear crashes as well as be equipped with electronic stability control, which is now a required safety feature for all cars beginning with the 2012 model year. Cars equipped with electronic stability control often have cheaper auto insurance rates than comparable cars without the feature because electronic stability control has been shown to prevent certain types of accidents, including rollover crashes.
While the number of deaths from rollover crashes has been steadily declining as more cars are equipped with electronic stability control, the federal government estimates that at least 5,000 people will still die in rollover accidents each year even if all passenger vehicles on the road were equipped with the feature. As a result, the IIHS assesses roof strength as part of its safety testing of cars as well as its Top Safety Pick criteria.
Tara Baukus Mello writes the cars blog as well as the weekly Driving for Dollars column, providing both practical financial advice for consumers as well as insight into the latest developments in the automotive world. Follow her on Facebook here or on Twitter @SheDrives.