What You Need To Know About NHTSA Safety Ratings
A Quick Guide to NHTSA Safety Ratings
You have probably seen or heard about NHTSA safety ratings at some point if you have been searching for a new car. While we all want a safe vehicle why should we care that the NHTSA has tested a vehicle? What does NHTSA stand for? How does the NHTSA evaluate new models? This post will explain how the NHTSA tests cars for safety so you can feel confident shopping for your next daily vehicle.
What is the NHTSA?
The NHTSA is the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and is a part of the United States Department of Transportation. According to their website, the NHTSA provides national leadership in planning and developing improved driver education, licensing, enforcement, prosecution, judicial, and post-adjudication efforts. This organization evaluates and rates vehicles, car seats, and tires. The NHTSA also investigates and sometimes issues a recall on a specific vehicle, car seat, tire, or internal vehicle part found to be unsafe.
In 2006 it became a requirement for dealerships to include NHTSA safety ratings on new car window stickers. Why? Information is buying power. Understanding the NHTSA safety ratings helps you make an informed decision when looking for your next vehicle.
NHTSA Safety Standards
So what safety criteria does the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration use to evaluate vehicles on their way to our showrooms?
The NHTSA Safety Rating Program evaluates new vehicles in four major crash tests. A star rating is given in each category with one star being the worst and five stars being the best. The four major crash safety tests are the Frontal Crash test, Side Barrier Crash test, Side Pole Crash test, and Rollover Resistance Test. These four scenarios were chosen because they are the most frequently occurring types of automotive accidents in the United States. Each crash test is recorded with high-speed cameras and various sensors to be analyzed in detail. All test dummies are properly buckled into their seats with seatbelts.
The Frontal Crash Test recreates a head-on collision. This kind of accident can happen on a two-lane road when one driver loses control in poor weather conditions, falls asleep, or is impaired by a substance. This accident can also occur when driving into a wall or barrier head-on. The vehicle being tested crashes into a barrier at 35 mph. Inside the vehicle, test dummies are buckled into the front driver and passenger seats. The dummies are evaluated after each crash to gauge the risk of injury to critical points like the head, neck, chest, and legs.
The Side Barrier Crash Test replicates a “T-bone” automotive accident. This accident can happen when you from a complete stop begin to progress into a 4-way intersection and another vehicle fails to yield to the red light or stop sign and crashes into the side of your vehicle.
In this test, a 3,015-pound barrier crashes into the driver’s side of the test vehicle at 38.5 miles per hour. In this test, adult dummies are placed in the driver and front passenger seats, and a small adult female dummy is placed in the rear seat behind the driver. The dummies are inspected for injuries to the head, chest, abdomen, and pelvis.
The Side Pole Crash Test is used to replicate the test vehicle hitting a pole-like obstacle on the front driver’s side. This may seem like an incredibly specific event but it happens more often than you think. This accident can occur when a driver loses control of their vehicle and the vehicle begins to slide sideways until it hits a telephone pole. This can happen when traction is lost on ice or wet roads.
In this test, one small adult female test dummy is placed in the driver’s seat. The test vehicle is pulled at 20 miles per hour into a 25cm diameter pole at a 75-degree sideways angle. The pole strikes the driver’s seating area just behind the tire. The dummy is evaluated for injuries to the head, chest, lower spine, abdomen, and pelvis.
The final test is the Rollover Resistance Test. This may be the scariest to experience in real life. When driving at a high speed and trying to take a turn too fast a vehicle may go off the road and rollover. The rollover resistance test evaluates a vehicle’s static stability factor. This factor determines how “top-heavy” a vehicle is and evaluates how likely the vehicle is to tip over during severe driving maneuvers like a sudden swerve to avoid a hazard.
Vehicles found to be top heavy and prone to tipping up MUST prominently include the Tip Up finding when advertising that vehicle. Any warnings or identified vulnerabilities must be displayed beneath the scoring.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also has detailed rules on how the final safety score can and cannot be presented to prevent the skewing, averaging, or coupling scores to make a vehicle seem safer than it is. The many rules and requirements protect the consumer from being lied to or mislead.
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