Beth Milito and her husband bought a 2011 Toyota Sienna based on friends’ recommendations and the minivan’s overall four-star safety rating to protect their four children.
But tucked into the details of the government’s crash test results was another rating that Milito said she never saw, which now has her wondering about her own safety. The front passenger seat on Milito’s Sienna received two out of five stars on the frontal crash test, a fall from the top five-star rating for that seat on the Sienna’s 2010 and older models.
The key difference: Starting with 2011 models, the federal government replaced an average-size male dummy with a smaller female dummy for some tests. When the 2011 Sienna was slammed into a barrier at 35 mph, the female dummy in the front passenger seat registered a 20 to 40 percent risk of being killed or seriously injured, according to the test data. The average for that class of vehicle is 15 percent.
“When we’re out and about as a family, I’m the one sitting in that seat,” said Milito, of Alexandria, after learning of the test results.
And she doesn’t know how the female dummy would fare behind the wheel, where she spends most of her car time commuting and ferrying kids. The star-rating system’s frontal crash test uses only the male dummy in the driver’s seat.