NHTSA recalibrates five-star safety rating program

  • 11-Oct-2010 03:18 EDT

Although vehicles are getting safer thanks to new technologies, fewer of them will get top scores under a revised five-star safety rating program announced in early October by NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration), a unit of the U.S. Department of Transportation. Program revisions include, among other things, a new crash test and an expanded list of body areas tested for injury. The changes will contribute to generally lower ratings, according to DOT Secretary Ray LaHood. Even some models that formerly had received five stars (five is best on the one-to-five scale) will receive fewer because of what amounts to an expansion and recalibration of the program. The fact that many vehicles had achieved a five-star rating under the old system—thus making it difficult for consumers to determine how safe one model was vs. a similar model—was a reason why DOT decided to strengthen the program. Starting with MY2011 passenger cars, SUVs, vans, and pickup trucks is a test simulating a vehicle crashing sideways into a pole or tree (the existing barrier side impact test will continue to be used as well), as is use of a female crash dummy (only a male dummy had been used) in frontal crash tests. Vehicles now will be given an overall score in addition to individual scores for frontal, side, and rollover crash protection.

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