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From Products Liability Law Daily, December 8, 2015

High-tech changes proposed for NHTSA’s all-new 5-star ratings program

By Pamela C. Maloney, J.D.

A new 5-Star Safety Ratings system that will, for the first time, include the assessment of crash-avoidance and advanced technologies as well as pedestrian protection has been proposed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The agency also proposed other changes to rating system for new vehicles that would improve the well-known safety ratings system by adding an additional crash test and calling for the use of new and more human-like crash test dummies. According to the agency, these proposed changes will give consumers even better information to help them choose a safe vehicle. NHTSA is seeking comments on the proposed changes to the 5-Star rating program. All comments must be received no later than 60 days after the notice’s publication in the Federal Register (NHTSA Press Release, No. 49-15, December 8, 2015)

The 5-Star Safety Ratings, also known as the New Car Assessment Program, crash-tests new vehicles every year and rates them on how well they protect occupants in frontal, side and rollover crashes. Results from these tests are compiled into a rating of 1 to 5 stars, with more stars indicating a safer car. The vehicle safety ratings appear on window stickers of new cars, and searchable ratings are available on NHTSA’s Safercar.gov website. The current program also includes a checklist of recommended advanced technology features such as rear-visibility cameras, lane departure warning, and forward collision warning.

Other proposed changes to the 5-Star Safety Ratings system include:

  • New tests to assess how well vehicles protect pedestrians from head, leg and pelvic injuries that occur when a pedestrian is struck by a vehicle;
  • A new frontal oblique crash test that measures how well vehicles protect occupants in an angled frontal crash;
  • An improved full frontal barrier crash test to drive safety improvements for rear seat occupants;
  • New crash test dummies, including the Test device for Human Occupant Restraint, (THOR) and WorldSID, that will provide vastly improved data on the effects a crash is likely to have on the human body;
  • An assessment of additional crash-avoidance and advanced technologies that offer drivers the most potential for avoiding or mitigating crashes;
  • Use of half-star increments to provide consumers more discriminating information about vehicle safety performance; and
  • The ability to dynamically update the program more swiftly as new safety technologies emerge.

NHTSA intends to analyze public comments and issue a final decision notice on the planned changes by the end of 2016. Consumers are expected to begin seeing ratings under the new system by Model Year 2019 vehicles. The agency intends to launch an intense consumer awareness effort to help vehicle shoppers understand how the new ratings can guide their new-car buying decisions, as well as briefings for industry and safety stakeholders.

MainStory: TopStory MotorVehiclesNews

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