As reported by the Washington Post, the U.S. Department of Transportation recently announced the first major update to its vehicle safety ratings (which grade vehicles on scale of up to five stars) in seven years. The new program will continue to assess passenger cars, pickup trucks, sport utility vehicles, and vans on the five star scale, but will add an overall safety rating that combines the scores from several crash tests. The new regulations, to be executed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), will take effect for the 2010 model year and will also include new front-end tests and a test in which a vehicle strikes a pole sideways to simulate the wrapping of a vehicle around a tree. Female crash test dummies will make their debut in the safety testing program and will be used to represent both women and small children. Additional measures will also include testing for leg injury and reporting whether vehicles have safety technology.
The new criteria will likely make it more difficult for vehicles to attain the maximum five star rating. Under the current system, almost 90 percent of vehicles score the maximum five starts and many automakers feature the safety rating in their advertising. The new standards will for the first time provide that vehicles get an overall safety rating, making it easier for consumers to compare vehicles.
For more on the new improvements to the crash test program, see here.
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