The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has just named two minivans from the Chrysler Group Top Safety Picks: the 2012 Chrysler Town & Country and the 2012 Dodge Grand Caravan.
2012 Dodge Grand CaravanEnlarge Photo
In making the announcement, the IIHS said these vehicles, which also include the Volkswagen Routan built from the same platform, as well as the Toyota Sienna and Honda Odyssey previously named Top Safety Picks, “stand out from competitors for superior protection in rollover crashes.”
Qualifying for the safety designation isn’t easy. Vehicles must earn top ratings in four separate areas: frontal, side, rollover and rear side crash protection. They must also have electronic stability control (ESC), which has become mandatory by federal regulation for all new passenger vehicles built as of September 1, 2011.
The importance of roof strength
How well a vehicle does in the IIHS rollover testing is very dependent on the strength of its roof. In IIHS testing, a vehicle must be able to withstand up to four times its weight, what the Institute terms a strength-to-weight ratio of at least 4. In the recent testing, the Chrysler Town & Country and Dodge Grand Caravan had a strength-to-weight ratio of 4.51, exceeding the target. That’s because both models underwent 2012 model year changes that beefed up roof strength.
Rollover crashes are associated with a high likelihood of death. In 2009, more than 8,000 people died in the U.S. as a result of rollover crashes. Although safety experts say that number will fall as more vehicles on the road have ESC, there will still be an estimated 5,000 to 6,000 rollover fatalities each year. According to the IIHS, stronger roofs are the key to helping prevent rollover deaths.
Other Top Safety Pick vehicles in the Chrysler Group include the 2012 Fiat 500, and 2011-2012 Chrysler 200, Chrysler 300, Dodge Avenger, Dodge Charger, Dodge Durango, Dodge Journey, and the 2011 Jeep Patriot and Jeep Grand Cherokee.