VIDEO: NHTSA 5-Star Ratings

The U.S. Department of Transportation has proposed updates to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s 5-Star Safety Ratings program that would include a new crash test, use of more human-like crash test dummies, and assessment of advanced crash-avoidance technologies.

“NHTSA’s 5-Star Safety Ratings have set the bar on safety since it began in 1978, and today we are raising that bar,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “The changes provide more and better information to new-vehicle shoppers that will help accelerate the technology innovations that saves lives.”

The 5-Star Safety Ratings, also known as the New Car Assessment Program, crash-tests new vehicles every year and currently rates them on how well they protect occupants in frontal, side and rollover crashes. Results from these tests are compiled into a rating of 1 to 5 stars, with more stars indicating a safer car. The vehicle safety ratings appear on window stickers of new cars, and searchable ratings are available on NHTSA’s website.

The current program also includes a checklist of recommended advanced technology features such as rear-visibility cameras, lane departure warning, and forward collision warning.

The planned changes to the 5-Star Safety Ratings system include:

  • A new 5-Star Safety Ratings system, which will, for the first time, encompass assessment of crash-avoidance and advanced technologies as well as pedestrian protection
  • New tests to assess how well vehicles protect pedestrians from head, leg and pelvic injuries that occur when a pedestrian is struck by a vehicle
  • A new frontal oblique crash test that measures how well vehicles protect occupants in an angled frontal crash
  • An improved full frontal barrier crash test to drive safety improvements for rear seat occupants
  • New crash-test dummies – including the Test device for Human Occupant Restraint (THOR) and WorldSID – that will provide improved data on the effects a crash is likely to have on the human body
  • An assessment of additional crash-avoidance and advanced technologies that offer drivers the most potential for avoiding or mitigating crashes
  • Use of half-star increments to provide consumers more discriminating information about vehicle safety performance
  • The ability to dynamically update the program more swiftly as new safety technologies emerge.

The full proposal, including all planned changes, can be viewed here. The agency will collect public comments for the next 60 days. NHTSA said it intends to analyze public comments and issue a final decision notice on the planned changes by the end of 2016.

The proposed changes drew immediate praise from the National Safety Council.

"NHTSA’s proposal tricks out the 5-Star Safety Ratings by embracing technology as the big game-changer in saving lives," said Deborah A.P. Hersman, National Safety Council president and CEO. "The announcement comes at a critical time, as highway fatalities have spiked this year. The new ratings address technologies that can stem the carnage for both vehicle occupants and pedestrians on our roadways." 

Vehicle buyers are expected to begin seeing ratings under the new system when model-year 2019 vehicles are introduced, NHTSA said. To view a video about NHTSA's 5-Star Safety Ratings program, click on the image or link below the headline.