DOT upgrades five-star vehicle safety rating program

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Consumers will have better, more complete safety information about the vehicles they want to purchase under a new plan to improve the federal government’s automobile crash tests and strengthen its five-star vehicle safety rating system, the Department of Transportation announced Tuesday, July 8.

“Knowing how many horses a car engine has is important, but knowing how safe a car is before you even step into a dealership ought to be essential,” DOT Secretary Mary Peters said. “We want to make sure consumers can easily take safety into consideration when choosing a new vehicle, along with price, fuel efficiency, size and the color they like best.”

Under the improvements to the five-star safety rating program, vehicles beginning with model year 2010 for the first time will be given an overall safety rating that combines results from frontal, side and rollover tests. The upgraded system also will include new frontal crash tests, as well as a new side pole test to simulate wrapping a vehicle around a tree, Peters said. Female crash dummies will be added to the tests so that women and larger children are represented, and new testing for leg injuries will be done.

Also for the first time, Peters said, a new rating on emerging advanced technologies will be added so consumers will know whether specific crash avoidance technologies — such as electronic stability control, lane departure warning systems and forward collision warning systems — are optional or standard features on new vehicles.

“Enhanced government safety ratings are intended to further the continuous advancement of vehicle safety,” said National Highway Traffic Safety Administrator Nicole R. Nason. “In addition to providing important information to consumers, the ratings encourage vehicle manufacturers to continue to design vehicles that reach an even higher level of safety.”

Each year, NHTSA performs rollover and crash tests on new cars and trucks and assigns them a safety rating that is available on the window label of new vehicles. For nearly 30 years, the five-star safety rating system has been the catalyst for encouraging major safety improvements to new vehicle designs, Peters said.

For more information on upgrades to the Government Safety Ratings System, click here.