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NHTSA Rolls Out New Vehicle Ratings System

With the increasing availability of vehicle safety features and a government push to reduce car accident injuries and fatalities on U.S. roads, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has revamped its 5-Star Safety Ratings, just in time for the automakers' newest crop of vehicles.

The new ratings, which are being used to test model year 2011 vehicles, are more stringent than previous systems. According to U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, they were created with safety in mind. "With our upgraded Five-Star Safety Ratings System, we're raising the bar on safety," he said. "Through new tests, better crash data, and higher standards, we are making the safety ratings tougher and more meaningful for consumers."

The system will evaluate the safety of all types of vehicles, including cars, vans, pickup trucks and SUVs, focusing on frontal crash, side crash, and rollover resistance tests. Additionally, for the first time, female crash test dummies will be used to simulate crash scenarios involving women. In the past, dummies have only been in the male form.

Under the former one-to-five-star ratings system, many cars reached a five star rating with ease. The new ratings, however, are more rigorous, and require vehicles to incorporate new safety innovations to get the top score. Technologies such as forward collision warning, lane departure warning, and electronic stability control are present in the majority of new cars, and they are required to receive the new system's highest rating.

"We want consumers to embrace these new safety technologies as a way to make vehicles safer," said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland. "We believe electronic stability control, lane departure warning, and forward collision warning offer significant safety benefits and consumers should consider them when buying a new car."

Source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, "U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood Rolls Out Upgraded 5-Star Vehicle Safety Ratings System", 5 October 2010

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