Government Rolls Out New Auto Safety Ratings

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As a lawyer in Atlanta handling serious car wrecks, I have seen the positive and negative side of various car designs. Some cars enjoy tremendous safety attributes and minimize occupant injury, while others are terribly designed.

Interestingly, this week, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (“NHTSA”) rolled out re-vamped safety ratings for automobiles. First, the new tests include a ‘side-impact pole test’ designed to simulate a car sliding into a utility pole or a tree. Next, and congratulations to women….the tests now finally include a female “test dummy.” It is amazing that it has taken until 2010 to begin incorporating a female “dummy” with a smaller frame into crash tests. Hopefully, this will allow the safety tests to be more accurate in that they contemplate female passengers and drivers.

The new 5-Star Safety Ratings System tests passenger cars, Sport Utility Vehicles, vans, and pickup trucks. There are three categories evaluated: frontal crash, side crash, and rollover resistance.

Safety ratings will range from 1 to 5 stars. 1 star is the lowest rating (least safe) and 5 stars the best rating a car can achieve. Given the dramatic improvement in car safety over the last few decades, many cars that qualified for the old 5 star rating will not qualify for the highest rating under the new standards. The new standards are much more exacting; thus, not all previously rated 5-star cars will remain at the top level and some may see a dramatic decline.

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