Minivan Crash Test

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The Ford Freestar minivan is one of the most popular family vehicles on the road, but in a certain kind of crash, experts say it could leave you and your kids in peril.

David Zuby says, "We saw evidence of risk of a serious head injury."

David Zuby is with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. In its latest round of crash tests it looked at minivans and how well they'd protect you in a side impact crash with an SUV or pickup.

Zuby says, "The kind of crash that might occur in an intersection."

First up: the Toyota Sienna and Nissan Quest. Both come with standard side airbags. As a result they received the institute's highest rating of "good."

Zuby says, "A vehicle rated good, we'd expect most people to walk away from that crash."

The Honda Odyssey also has standard side airbags. It too scored a rating of "good." The Ford Freestar was a different story. The institute tested two versions of this minivan, the first with optional side airbags. It rated "acceptable."

Zuby says, "The types of injuries that occur might be more severe or maybe there would be a few people who couldn't walk away but most people would."

The dummies in the Freestar without the optional side airbags had their heads go crashing through the window. That model received the lowest possible rating of "poor."

And after testing the Mazda MPV without its optional side airbags, it too received a "poor" rating.

Zuby says, "People in a crash similar to the test we ran would likely suffer serious injuries, possibly life-threatening injuries that would require immediate medical attention."

The message? The institute says if you're in the market for a minivan, make sure it has side airbags even if they cost extra.

Zuby says, "Side impact airbags when they're optional equipment range in price from an additional $500 to a little over $1,000, we feel that it's very important that people spend this extra money to provide the extra crash protection in the event of a serious side impact crash."