Statement on IIHS Minivan Rear Seat Safety Test Ratings

  • September 19, 2023
150 150 Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety

Statement by Cathy Chase, President,

Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates), on

IIHS Minivan Rear Seat Safety Test Ratings

(Washington, D.C. | September 19, 2023) The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) released a report showing second-row passenger seat protection in frontal crashes is lagging in minivans – popular vehicles with many families. Of the four tested, none received an overall “good” or “acceptable” rating. These abysmal results illustrate the urgent need for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to improve safety for backseat passengers including issuing without further delay a Final Rule to require passenger vehicles be equipped with seat belt use warning systems for passengers in the rear seats. NHTSA recently issued this Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), and it must be advanced swiftly. IIHS research has definitively linked seat belt reminder systems to increasing seat belt use and saving lives.

NHTSA estimates nearly 43,000 people died in motor vehicle crashes last year alone. In 2021, among passenger vehicle occupant fatalities that year, 50 percent were unrestrained when restraint use was known. On U.S. roads between 2011 and 2020, on average, nearly 900 unbelted rear seat occupants of passenger vehicles and light trucks died in crashes each year. Between 2011 and 2020, an average of 18,000 unbelted second-row occupants were injured annually, according to the latest statistics available. Children and teens constitute a large proportion of rear seat occupants represented in the crash data.

More than a decade ago, Congress directed NHTSA to issue other rulemakings that would improve the safety of child passengers. This includes improving the Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH) system as well as more accurate crash testing for child safety seats during frontal impact crashes. With every further delay in this rulemaking, more children are injured or killed. In addition, the federal safety standard for preventing seatback collapse remains insufficient and has not been updated in more than five decades.

State lawmakers should do their part to protect motor vehicle passengers as well. Advocates continues to press states to enact primary enforcement all-occupant seat belt laws and comprehensive child passenger safety laws. Advocates’ Roadmap to Safety report provides guidance for state elected officials on needed improvements as well as countermeasures that must be advanced at the federal level.

Second rows should not take a “back seat” when it comes to safety. It is time for our Nation’s federal and state leaders to take immediate action to implement proven, lifesaving solutions.

Note: for more information on vehicle occupant safety, see Advocates’ recent statement on proven protections for children and all road users.

Media Contact: Helen Jonsen 202-977-7534