NHTSA’s New Car Assessment Program evaluates new vehicles based on how well they perform in a series of crash tests.  -  Photo:  Unsplash.com/Erik Mclean

NHTSA’s New Car Assessment Program evaluates new vehicles based on how well they perform in a series of crash tests.

Photo: Unsplash.com/Erik Mclean

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has expressed concern about the lack of including collision-avoidance technologies as safety criteria in the 5-Star Safety Rating Program spearheaded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Presently, NHTSA’s 5-Star Rating Program — also known as its New Car Assessment Program — evaluates new vehicles based on how well they perform in a series of crash tests. Specifically, NHTSA conducts frontal, side, and rollover tests because these types account for the majority of crashes on America's roadways.

However, NTSB says crash tests are no longer enough. With the proliferation of advanced driver safety systems, safety is not only about crashworthiness, but also increasingly about crash avoidance.

In March, after NHTSA requested comments on its 5-Star Rating Program, NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy responded with a 13-page letter detailing ways to improve the program.

While NHTSA’s rating program dates back to 1979, it still assesses only how well a vehicle performs during a crash. On the upside, the program has been a strong motivator for automakers to continually improve crashworthiness of vehicles over the years.

Even so, NTSB says the performance of crash avoidance systems should be rated by NHTSA and included in the overall 5-Star rating system, which American consumers depend on. Moreover, Congress passed a law requiring NHTSA to include crash-avoidance technologies on the widow labels found on new cars at dealerships by 2016, but this has not yet happened.

Ultimately, NTSB would like to see NHTSA rate the performance of technologies like forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warnings, lane keep assist systems, driver monitoring, and other active and passive components designed to also protect pedestrians and bicyclists.

A 5-Star Rating Program that combines evaluations of both crashworthiness and crash-avoidance technologies would ultimately provide motorists with a more comprehensive picture of vehicle safety.

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