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The trend for families is to buy vehicles than can seat more than 5 passengers.  Most of these vehicles have three rows of seating, but not all of them are equal in terms of safety.  Many larger vehicles lack important crash test results and some have a relatively high risk of rollover.  Not many vehicles with three rows of seating have side curtain airbags for all rows; even fewer deploy them when a rollover is detected. An equally important new safety feature is stability control, which is proving to help drivers avoid crashes in these larger vehicles that often have inferior handling compared to passenger cars.  Don't assume the largest, heaviest vehicles are safest.  According to IIHS death statistics, once a vehicle is over 4000 pounds, additional weight does not significantly reduce the risk of fatalities in a multi-vehicle crash.  Most large sport utility vehicles do not get top ratings in the NHTSA and IIHS frontal crash tests and many others have no crash test results.  

Rear impacts can be dangerous to third row passengers.  Fortunately, severe rear-end impacts are relatively uncommon.  Only around 5% to 7% of fatalities occur in rear-enders.  The main risk is to heavy adults who might cause the vehicle seat back to fail in a serious crash.  This risk is even greater if the adults don't have head restraints and shoulder belts.  If you will regularly carry adults in a third row, insist on features like head restraints and 3-point lap/shoulder seatbelts in ALL rear seating positions.  Lap-only belts are not safe for adults or children in boosters, in any type of crash.  On the other hand, kids in harnessed child seats or high back boosters are at much less risk in a third row.  They are much lighter, and less likely to load the vehicle seat back mechanism to failure.  The shell of their restraints should also provide some protection from intrusion as well as adequate head restraint to prevent whiplash injuries.  Even safer, a child restraint with a 5-point harness can reduce the risk of ejection.  For a child using an appropriate restraint, the center of the third row is usually a safer choice than an outside seat in the second row.  Some vehicles lack shoulder belts in the rear center position, so a child using a booster could not be seated there.  In these cases, if permitted by the vehicle owner's manual, a child restraint with a 5-point harness can usually be installed with just a lap belt, though a top-tether is always recommended for additional safety. Finally, vehicles with well over a foot of space between the 3rd row seat and rear hatch may have an advantage over those with just a few inches separating passengers from the rear of the vehicle.

Please research carefully if safety is a main concern in your choice of a vehicle for your family. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), motor vehicle crashes remain the leading cause of death for people aged 4 to 33 years, exceeding most other causes combined. Each year in the United States, more than 1.5 million children under age 16 are occupants in motor vehicle crashes, resulting in more than 1,700 fatalities and 240,000 non-fatal injuries. Please, protect your family with a safe vehicle, be sure to properly restrain all passengers and always drive unimpaired with your full attention on the road. These few easy choices significantly reduce the chance of death or serious injury on the roads.

Crash Test Results and Safety Features for the Safest Model Year 2006/2007 Vehicles With Third Row Seating

The requirements to make the list of the safest vehicles with three rows of seating are very tough, but also very straightforward. Side curtain airbags for all three rows of seating must be at least optional on some trim level and consumers should insist on this feature if it is not standard. Rollover side curtain airbags that detect and deploy in rollover crashes are an added plus. A stability control system must also be available for a vehicle to make this list. Again, consumers must be sure to purchase the correct option package or trim level to get this feature on some models. To further narrow down the field, a vehicle must have top ratings in the widely available crash tests, if tested. That means "5-stars" in the both NHTSA frontal crash tests, both NHTSA side impact crash tests and "Good" ratings in the IIHS frontal offset and side impact crash tests. Vehicles missing any of these test results will only be considered as "Promising," as long as they have all the other required safety features.  Fatal rear-end crashes are not common, only around 5%-7% of all fatal crashes. Despite the low risk of death in rear-end crashes, whiplash is a common injury from less severe rear impacts. Because of this, special credit will be given to the very few models that get top ratings in the new IIHS rear crash test or have proven active head restraint systems.

Recommended 2006 and 2007 Model Year Minivans and Sport Utility Vehicles Based on Overall Safety
Year Make Model Type Chassis # IO IS ND NP NF NR RR SA SB HR SC AW RA SH RT RS AH Notes
2006 Acura MDX SUV Unibody 7 5   5 5 5 5 4 Y Y Y Y Y Y Y S O N Recommended
2007 Chevrolet Tahoe SUV Truck 7/8/9 NT   NT NT NT NT NT Y ? ? Y O Y ? ? O ? Preliminary
2006 Dodge Durango SUV Truck 7 NT   5 5 NT NT 3 Y Y Y O O N ? ? ? N Promising
2007 GMC Yukon SUV Truck 7/8/9 NT   NT NT NT NT NT Y ? ? Y O Y ? ? O ? Preliminary
2006 Honda Pilot SUV Unibody 8     5 5 5 5 4 Y Y Y Y O Y Y O O N Promising
2006 Honda Odyssey Minivan Unibody 8 5 4 5 5 5 5 4 Y Y Y Y N Y Y O O N Recommended
2006 Jeep Commander SUV Hybrid 7 NT   NT NT NT NT NT Y N N Y O Y Y Y Y N Promising
2006 Kia Sedona Minivan Unibody 7 5 5 5 5 5 5 4 Y Y Y Y N N Y Y O Y Recommended
2006 Land Rover LR3 SUV Hybrid 7 NT   NT NT NT NT NT Y Y Y Y Y N Y ? ? N Promising
2006 Mercedes R-Class SUV Unibody 6 NT   NT NT NT NT NT Y Y Y Y Y Y ? Y ? ? Promising
2006 Nissan Quest Minivan Unibody 7 4 5 5 5 5 5 4 Y Y Y O N N Y Y O N Recommended
2006 Volvo XC90 SUV Unibody 7 5   5 4 5 5 4 Y Y Y Y Y Y Y N O Y Recommended
Year Make Model Type Chassis # IO IS ND NP NF NR RR SA SB HR SC AW RA SH RT RS AH Notes


  • NT = Not Tested,     TB = To Be Rated,     Y = Standard,   N = Not Available,     O = Optional/Available
  • IIHS Offset Crash Results are converted to numerical ratings for ease of comparison. A "5" rating corresponds to an IIHS "Best Pick".   "4" is "Good," "3" is "Acceptable," "2" is "Marginal," and a rating of "1" corresponds to a "Poor" IIHS offset crash test rating.  Also, please see our for more information.
  • # = Number of Passengers
    IO = IIHS Offset frontal crash test
    IS = IIHS Side impact crash test
    ND = NHTSA Driver frontal crash test
    NP = NHTSA Passenger frontal crash test
    NF = NHTSA side crash test Front seat (Driver)
    NR = NHTSA side crash test Rear seat (Passenger)
    RR = NHTSA Rollover Rating
    SA = Side Airbags with head protection for all seating rows
    SB = 3-point lap and Shoulder Belts for all seating positions
    HR = Head Restraint for all seating positions
    SC = Stability Control
    AW = All Wheel drive or four wheel drive
    RA = Rollover Protection/Sensing Side Curtain Airbag System
    SH = Shoulder belt Height adjustments for at least some rear seats
    RT = Runflat Tires OR tire pressure monitoring
    RS = Reverse Sensing OR rear object detection/camera
    AH = Active Head Restraints or "Good" IIHS rear crash rating
  • The hybrid unibody/truck chassis used on some models is NOT to be confused with a hybrid electric/gas powertrain system
All information applies ONLY to 2006 and 2007 model year vehicles.  Earlier models may vary significantly and cannot be recommended based on the data given in this table.  Information is obtained from the and websites in addition to surveys of vehicles.  Data may not apply to specific trim levels of any particular model.  If you find any errors or omissions, please let us know by posting to the .  Please include a manufacturer's website link to the correct information, if possible.  Ratings may be revised based on new information.  Other vehicles not mentioned may be almost as safe as vehicles that met the listed criteria. For example, honorable mentions like the 2006 Toyota Sienna, Ford Freestar and Mercury Monterey barely missed our cutoff.  Other features beyond the scope of this comparison, including emergency handling and braking, may also be very important for an overall safety evaluation.


: Vehicle and Carseat Safety
Version 1.7a, 4/17/2006.