Chicago Auto Show Blog

New NHTSA 5-Star Means Safer Cars

Posted by: Mark Bilek

NHTSA 5 StarEarlier this month, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Administrator David Strickland announced an enhanced 5-Star Safety Ratings System that will utilize new tests and better crash data to hold cars to higher standards. The upgraded ratings system will now evaluate side pole crash testing and crash prevention-technologies. And, for the first time, it will use female crash test dummies to simulate crash scenarios involving women, not just men.

"More stars equal safer cars," said Secretary LaHood. "With our upgraded Five-Star Safety Ratings System, we're raising the bar on safety. Through new tests, better crash data, and higher standards, we are making the safety ratings tougher and more meaningful for consumers."

Vehicle safety ratings range from 1 to 5 stars, with 1 star being the lowest and 5 stars the highest. NHTSA decided to upgrade the star program because so many vehicles had reached the highest rating under the old rating criteria and because the new standards are much more rigorous. Because of this, not all previously rated 5-star vehicles will remain at 5 stars.

The new 5-Star Safety Ratings System evaluates the safety of passenger cars, SUVs, vans and pickup trucks in three broad areas - frontal crash, side crash, and rollover resistance. For model year 2011, NHTSA will rate 24 passenger cars, 20 sport utility vehicles, two vans and nine pickups under the new ratings system.

One of the most significant changes to the ratings program for consumers is the addition of an Overall Vehicle Score for each vehicle tested. The Overall Vehicle Score combines the results of a frontal crash test, side crash tests and rollover resistance tests and compares those results to the average risk of injury and potential for vehicle rollover of other vehicles to give vehicles an indexed single score that consumers can use for comparison when vehicle shopping.

NHTSA recommends consumers consider vehicles with crash avoidance technologies that meet the 5-Star Safety Ratings minimum performance tests, such as forward collision warning (FCW), lane departure warning (LDW), and electronic stability control (ESC). All of the 2011 model year vehicles currently rated have ESC as standard, except for the Nissan Versa, in which it is optional.

More information, including the full list of newly-rated vehicles is available at the official website for the Federal government's 5-Star Safety Ratings Program, At, consumers can also find comprehensive information about safe driving, vehicle defects, safety recalls, and passenger safety.

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