Raising the Bar on Vehicle Testing
On the heels of Consumer Reports pushing the envelope on child safety seat testing, the Department of Transportation says it's looking to change testing standards for vehicles.
Apparently, it's gotten too easy for vehicles to score five stars on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's frontal and side crash tests.
According to Consumeraffairs.com, 87 percent of 2006 vehicles received four or five stars for side impact crashes and 95 percent earned top marks for frontal crashes. The concern is that with so many cars receiving similar ratings, they have lost meaning for consumers.
Other ratings you probably have seen come from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which has already come up with tougher crash tests.
NHTSA wants to change its testing regime by using smaller dummies to stand in for female drivers, raising speeds and making crash barriers heavier to simulate larger vehicles. Oh, and it wants to wrap cars around poles.
I'm not kidding.
Transportation Secretary Mary Peters told Consumeraffairs.com: "Everyone knows the old adage 'wrapping the car around the telephone pole'...We want to re-create this kind of crash to show how side air bags can protect the driver's head during this type of crash."
Instead of the old star system, NHTSA plans to award letter grades to car manufacturers for adding hi-tech safety features such as electronic stability control.
IIHS and consumer advocates criticize NHTSA's plans for not going far enough. Public Citizen's Joan Claybrook, for one, would like to see the results of rollover crash tests that evaluate roof crush and passenger ejection included in rollover safety ratings.
They'll be able to have their say at a March 7 public meeting in Washington on the proposed standards.
What do you think NHTSA should take into account as it develops new crash-test standards?
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