Transportation Department aims to revamp crash testing [w/video]

The US Department of Transportation aims to overhaul federal crash test standards to make drivers safer. The proposed changes to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's assessments would make the accident evaluations more rigorous and allow regulators to make quicker improvements to the system in the future.

"NHTSA's 5-Star Safety Ratings have set the bar on safety since it began in 1978, and today we are raising that bar," said US Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx (pictured above).

The newly proposed standards add even more evaluations to the current front, side, and rollover resistance tests. Among them, the agency would begin an oblique front crash to smash a vehicle against an angled object. It would also rate the potential injuries to pedestrians in an accident and score whether customers can get modern safety tech like forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking. To help people better differentiate between the tests' results, the DOT could use half-star increments for its ratings, too.

The crash test dummies would also see a big upgrade. The new one for frontal hits called Thor has advanced sensors to communicate more accurate results to regulators, and the latest side-impact dummy would offer a more realistic reaction to collisions.

The agency's changes are only a proposal for now, but the DOT intends to make a final decision by the end of 2016. If that happens, it could implement the improved rules as soon as the 2019 model year. The video below offers a little more info on the updates.

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Planned high-tech upgrades include a new crash test, new dummies, crash-avoidance ratings

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation today proposed high-tech changes to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's 5-Star Safety Ratings for new vehicles. The planned changes will improve on the well-known safety ratings by adding an additional crash test, using new and more human-like crash test dummies, rating crash-avoidance advanced technologies, and assessing pedestrian protection. These proposed changes will give consumers even better information to help them choose a safe vehicle, and will encourage manufacturers to produce vehicles with better crash protection and new technology innovations that will save lives.

"NHTSA's 5-Star Safety Ratings have set the bar on safety since it began in 1978, and today we are raising that bar," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. "The changes provide more and better information to new-vehicle shoppers that will help accelerate the technology innovations that saves lives."

The 5-Star Safety Ratings, also known as the New Car Assessment Program, crash-tests new vehicles every year and currently 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 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.

The planned changes to the 5-Star Safety Ratings system include:

A new 5-Star Safety Ratings system, which will, for the first time, encompass assessment of crash-avoidance and advanced technologies as well as pedestrian protection;

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's 5-Star Safety Ratings program was the first of its kind, and the idea has now spread around the world," said NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind. "Today, we're adding to that legacy of global safety leadership, ensuring that American consumers have the best possible information about how to protect themselves and their families, and taking a significant step forward in our efforts to save lives and prevent injuries."

The full proposal, including all planned changes, can be viewed here. The agency will collect public comments for the next 60 days. 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.

View NHTSA's "5-Star Safety Ratings for the Future" fact sheet and video
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