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Understanding Crash Test Ratings

Richardson Richardson Boudreaux, PLLC

Every year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) perform crash tests on new vehicles. Each of these vehicles receives a safety rating, which helps consumers pick the best car or truck for their needs.

Keep reading to learn more about crash test ratings and how to buy a safer car:

More Stars Mean Safer Cars

The NHTSA evaluates how vehicles perform in crash tests with its 5-Star Safety Ratings program. The NHTSA conducts frontal, side, and rollover tests using crash test dummies.

In frontal crash tests, the NHTSA puts one average-size adult male dummy in the driver’s seat and a small-size adult female dummy in the passenger seat and evaluates injuries to the head, neck, chest, and legs.

When it comes to side crash tests, the NHTSA conducts 2 types of tests. In the side barrier crash test, there is an adult male dummy in the driver seat and an adult female dummy in the rear passenger seat, and the NHTSA evaluates injuries to the head, chest, abdomen, and pelvis. In the side pole crash test, there is a small-size adult female dummy in the driver seat and the NHTSA evaluates injuries to the head, chest, lower spine, abdomen, and pelvis.

The NHTSA also performs a rollover resistance test that determines how vulnerable a vehicle is to rollovers and checks to ensure new vehicles have recommended driver assistance technologies. All vehicles made after 2018 must have a rearview video system, and in 2016, the NHTSA added emergency braking systems to the list of recommended crash-prevention technologies.

You can find a new car’s 5-Star Safety Rating on its window label or find and compare crash test ratings at safercar.gov.

Choose vehicles with 5-star overall safety ratings and look for the safety features you prefer.

Top Safety Picks

Instead of using a rating system, the IIHS recommends its Top Safety Picks and gives some vehicles the TOP SAFETY PICK + designation. According to the IIHS:

These awards identify the best vehicle choices for safety within size categories during a given year.”

To qualify as a TOP SAFETY PICK or a TOP SAFETY PICK +, vehicles must have good ratings in vehicle overlap, roof strength, and head restraints, as well as advanced or superior ratings for front crash prevention and acceptable or good headlights.

You can find 2020’s Top Safety Picks here.

What Matters Most?

Crash-test ratings are great, but how do you use them to choose your next car? Guides from Consumer Reports and Edmunds can help.

Essentially, organizations like the NHTSA and IIHS evaluate structural design and safety systems to find out how well a vehicle protects its occupants. The more space a vehicle leaves for its passengers during a crash, the better. Safety belts (seatbelts), airbags, and head restraints are especially important for cushioning you and keeping you safe.

As time goes on, more and more safety features emerge. Now, the top-rated cars also have crash prevention and mitigation technologies. Features like automatic braking can be useful because they may detect a crash before you do or save your life if your attention strays from the road.

Of course, when you purchase a car, what matters most is whatever matters most to you. If you always forget to check your blind spot, for example, consider blind spot assist.

Remember that even the safest vehicle only offers so much protection. The main way to protect yourself from car accidents is with safe, defensive driving.

If the worst happens, you can also protect your interests by contacting a personal injury attorney like Richardson Richardson Boudreaux PLLC.

We can help you recover the resources you need after an accident or injury – all you have to do is call us at (918) 347-6456 or contact us online for a free consultation.

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