NHTSAs Enhanced 5-Star Safety Ratings System to Push Auto Manufacturers Toward Making Safer Vehicles

This week, the US Department of Transportation and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration rolled out their upgraded 5-Star Safety Ratings System for new autos. According to US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, the enhanced ratings system raises the safety bar and they will be tougher to meet. Beginning with the 2011 models, the ratings system will assess the safety of passenger vehicles, vans, SUVs, and pickup trucks in the areas of side crash, frontal crash, and rollover system. An Overall Vehicle Score that combines results from all three areas will be provided. The score will compare the results to the other vehicles’ potential for both vehicle rollover and risk of injury. Hopefully, this enhanced system will compel automakers to make safer cars that are free from dangerous auto defects.
Already, under the new system, only the Hyundai Sonata and BMW 5 Series have received five star ratings. Under the previous system, a lot more cars had received the maximum rating. For example, after earning five stars for its nearly identical vehicle in 2010 the Toyota Camry, received just three stars for its 2011 model.
The enhanced system will also assess side pole crash testing and crash prevention-technologies. The side-impact oblique pole test simulates a single auto hitting a utility pole or tree or getting hit from the side by a higher-riding auto. This test is a supplement to the older side barrier crash test. Also, for the first time, female crash test dummies are being used during simulated crash sequences. A female dummy will be used in the front passenger car seat during frontal crash testing and in the driver’s seat during the pole test.
33 2011 model vehicles have been tested so far under the new auto safety rating system. Most of them, except for the Toyota Camry and the Camry Hybrid, which also received three stars, and Nissan’s Versa, which received two stars (the lowest score of all the vehicles tested), received four stars. NHTSA Administrator David Strickland says the government wants consumers to embrace the available safety technologies, such as lane departure warning, electronic stability control, and forward collision, and take them into consideration when choosing which car to buy.
However, safety officials are cautioning consumers not to compare ratings that cars received under the old system and the new one. They say that a vehicle receiving less stars under the new system is more about having to do well under tougher tests and not about the vehicle being less safe.
Auto Products Liability
Hopefully, the new auto ratings system will decrease the number of injuries and deaths that result each year because of auto defects. Automakers must make sure that not only that their vehicles equipped with the proper safety equipment, but also that there are no design or manufacturing flaws that can cause a catastrophic car crash.
New U.S. crash tests: Only Hyundai Sonata, BMW 5 get 5 stars, USA Today, October 5, 2010
New Federal Auto Safety Rating System Takes Effect, The New York Times, October 5, 2010
Related Web Resources:
View the List of 2011 Vehicles that Have Been Rated Under the New System (PDF)
5-Star Safety Ratings

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