The Car and Truck Fleet and Leasing Management Magazine

Transportation Dept. Rolls Out New Vehicle Safety Ratings System

October 06, 2010

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Department of Transportation on Oct. 5 unveiled an upgraded 5-Star Safety Ratings System for new vehicles and released the safety ratings for the first 2011 model-year vehicles tested under the program.

The upgraded ratings system will now evaluate side pole crash testing and crash prevention-technologies. And, for the first time, it will use female crash test dummies to simulate crash scenarios involving women, not just men.

"More stars equal safer cars," said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. "With our upgraded Five-Star Safety Ratings System, we're raising the bar on safety. Through new tests, better crash data, and higher standards, we are making the safety ratings tougher and more meaningful for consumers."

Vehicle safety ratings range from one to five stars. Because so many vehicles had reached the highest rating under the old rating criteria, and because the new standards are much more rigorous, not all previously rated five-star vehicles will remain at five stars.

The new 5-Star Safety Ratings System evaluates the safety of passenger cars, SUVs, vans and pickup trucks in three broad areas -- frontal crash, side crash and rollover resistance. For model year 2011, NHTSA will rate 24 passenger cars, 20 sport utility vehicles, two vans and nine pickups under the new ratings system.

"We want consumers to embrace these new safety technologies as a way to make vehicles safer," said National Highway Traffic Safety 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."

One of the most significant changes to the ratings program for consumers is the addition of an "overall vehicle score" for each vehicle tested. The overall vehicle score combines the results of a frontal crash test, side crash tests and rollover resistance tests and compares those results to the average risk of injury and potential for vehicle rollover of other vehicles.

NHTSA recommends consumers consider vehicles with crash avoidance technologies that meet the 5-Star Safety Ratings minimum performance tests, such as forward collision warning (FCW), lane departure warning (LDW), and electronic stability control (ESC).  All of the 2011 model year vehicles currently rated have ESC as standard, except for the Nissan Versa, in which it is optional.
More information, including the full list of newly-rated vehicles is available at the Web site for the federal government's 5-Star Safety Ratings Program, At, consumers can also find information about safe driving, vehicle defects, safety recalls, and passenger safety. 

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