When manufacturers get a 5-star crash rating for one of their models, the klieg lights and publicity klaxon get thorough workouts. Those tiny ten-sided polygons have gotten to mean so much to consumers that it's not unusual for a carmaker to drop a few hundred large on prime time commercial space and 60-point text to convey the message. Well, not to deflate anyone's... airbag... but Airbag Solutions has broken down the test methodology and what the results mean in real-world cases. It in no way demeans the quality of the rating system or the work done by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, as well as similar tests performed by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, but it does show that ultimately the ratings apply to a narrower set of circumstances than one might have thought. For instance, crash test dummies replicate effects only for adults -- babies, kids, and teenagers don't count. If you're in a crash at more than 40 mph, or if you hit a car with a weight differential of more than 250 lbs, the rating scale doesn't apply. One would assume that a 5-star car at 38 mph would still be better in a crash at 70 mph than a 3-star car, but there's a lot of gray area around the well-defined boundaries of the protocols. Click the 'Read' link to get the full story.

[Source: Airbag Solutions]