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NHTSA’s Crash Test Program and Safety Ratings Need Upgrades

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has used a five-star safety rating system for vehicles since the 1990s, and this has no doubt benefited many car buyers in Wisconsin and across the U.S. The rating system is based on the results of a series of crash tests that the federal agency conducts in a laboratory with crash dummies.

Both the rating system and crash tests, however, may need updating as the automotive industry advances. A report was published in October 2019 criticizing the NHTSA for falling behind other countries in its crash testing. The author, who works for the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, states that Europe crash tests its vehicles four times as much as the U.S. before rating the vehicles.

The report points out the need for new test procedures and ratings for new safety technologies like pedestrian detection systems. The NHTSA has indeed promised to make such additions, but it appears that the changes cannot be made until there is sufficient funding and “political will.”

Crash test results are not all that car buyers depend on, of course. Some experts believe that the data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System can effectively show drivers how well a vehicle can protect its occupants in real-world situations. The data, though free, is not entirely accessible

Still, no matter how safe their vehicles may be, drivers often cause motor vehicle accidents through their own negligence. Those who are injured may consult a lawyer about whether they can file a claim. In Wisconsin, plaintiffs can recover damages as long as their degree of fault is less than the defendant’s. Auto insurance companies have the ability to fight claims, though, so victims may want to leave all negotiations for a settlement to their lawyer.

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