The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently issued a statement that a 5-star rating is the highest rating a vehicle can achieve under its crash-testing program, but stopped short of naming one vehicle as the safest vehicle on the road today.
The agency's statement appears to be a veiled response to Tesla's claim that NHTSA's test also shows that its Model 3 "has the lowest probability of injury of all cars the safety agency has ever tested." That claim from Tesla appeared in a blog post dated Oct. 7.
NHTSA's statement, which goes on to say that the agency doesn't distinguish safety performance beyond the 5-star rating and "thus there is no 'safest' vehicle among those vehicles achieving 5-star ratings," was posted on the agency's website on Oct. 9.
NHTSA's crash-testing program conducts a total of three crash tests on new vehicles. These include one frontal and two side crash tests, as well as a rollover resistance assessment — a driving maneuver test that assesses a vehicle's susceptibility to tipping up and a measurement of top-heaviness. According to NHTSA, results from these three crash tests and the rollover resistance assessment are weighted and combined into an overall safety rating. A 5-star rating is the highest safety rating a vehicle can achieve.
While the Model 3 did achieve a 5-star rating in every subcategory, Tesla put its own spin on the NHTSA testing and resulting data. In the blog post, the automaker states that the agency's data shows that vehicle occupants are less likely to get seriously hurt in specific types of crashes when in a Model 3 as opposed to any other car. However, NHTSA's statement is a reminder to all that the agency and its assessment program are not in the business of singling out any one vehicle as a top safety winner.