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Only Two Cars Make Top Grade in New Government Crash Tests

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author photo by Autotrader October 2010

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has revised its crash test ratings, making it harder for automakers to earn the coveted “Five Star” safety rating. Changes include a smaller crash test dummy, new criteria for the side impact test and an “Overall Score” that summarizes a vehicle’s crashworthiness.

Until now, the NHTSA has used a test dummy based on a medium-sized male in a “one size fits all” approach. It now recognizes that this does not gauge injury levels adequately for all Americans, especially women and children. So it has added a new, smaller version to help capture the impact of crash forces on a broader segment of the population. Additionally, more sensors on the dummies will provide further data.

The administration has also updated the way it conducts its side impact test. Usually, a car-shaped dolly is smashed into test vehicles to simulate an impact with another car. Now a second step has vehicles crashing into poles sideways at 20mph, simulating an accident with a stationary object such as a tree or telephone pole. Results from both tests are factored together to determine an overall side impact score.

Perhaps the most important change in the NHTSA’s process is the addition of an “Overall Score” to a vehicle’s crash test summary.

“We wanted to make it easier for consumers to evaluate the overall safety of the vehicle,” said NHTSA administrator David Strickland. In addition to ascertaining a car’s comprehensive safety rating, this category will also help consumers compare similar vehicles.

The first vehicles to undergo the new regime are 2011 models. After testing 33 candidates, the NHTSA has awarded its perfect overall rating to just two cars: the BMW 5 Series and Hyundai Sonata.

New window stickers featuring these updated crash test ratings should begin appearing in the near future.

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Only Two Cars Make Top Grade in New Government Crash Tests - Autotrader