Photo credit: David Guo
What makes the Toyota Sienna such a smart choice for moms?
It was a sunny Saturday morning, and my four boys and I were on our way back home after a donut run. Three vehicles in front of us on the road, there was a sedan waiting to turn left. One by one the other cars came to a safe stop behind it, as did I. But the car behind me did not. Instead, the distracted driver slammed into the back of my Toyota Sienna. You know, right where two of my children were sitting in the third row.
Now, statistically speaking, the third row is probably the safest place to sit, since most fatalities occur due to a front or side impact.
That’s why when you look up safety data from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety you’ll find all kinds of tests done to measure a vehicle’s stability in front, side, and roll-over accidents, but very little information on rear-end collision tests.
But for me, a mom who daily has children in the third row, rear-end safety has become increasingly important. Despite the lack of crash test data, there are two things that experts do know when it comes to rear-end collision safety.
The first has to do with distance between the third row and the back of the vehicle. Unless you’re driving a tank, impact will cause your vehicle to crumple in proportion to the velocity. The back end is actually designed as a “crumple zone” in order to absorb crash energy at higher speeds before reaching the frame (where occupants are seated). So it stands to reason that more space between the third row and the back of the vehicle allows for more crumple room before third row passengers are affected.
The second thing to consider is bumper height. This is tricky because for the least amount of damage, both vehicles in a collision should ideally hit square on each other’s bumpers. However, while it does mandate passenger car bumper height, the NHTSA has yet to regulate bumper height on trucks, minivans, and SUVs. It seems that a high-bumper vehicle could potentially plow right into my third row kids.
Crumple zone and bumper height (in addition to the obvious swagger options) have led me to shop for another Sienna this time around. The Sienna offers best-in-class cargo space behind the third row, which is great not only for hauling stuff, but also for protecting third row kids. Sure it’s only slightly bigger than competitors, but even a slightly bigger “crumple zone” is better in my book. Also, the Sienna offers relatively high ground clearance (2 inches higher than the Odyssey), which should in theory bring its bumper up higher as well. With so many high-bumper SUVs and trucks on the road, I feel better with that slight difference…and hopefully I’ll have a lower chance of scraping parking blocks as an added benefit.
In addition to my neurotic post-crash rear-end revelations, the Sienna continues to make great safety strides overall. For the newer 2015-2016 models, Toyota has increased the Sienna’s side curtain airbag coverage by 30 percent, which is good news for smaller (read: child) passengers. They’re also offering front row knee airbags, as well as the ground-breaking Pre-Collision System (which uses radar to sense and adapt to a possible crash) as an option.
We walked away from our rear-end crash, thankful for the Sienna’s protection and enlightened to the importance of rear-end safety. It might not seem like a big deal statistically, but my kids are always a big deal to me. That’s why I’m choosing Sienna again.