What Should I Know About Car Safety Ratings?
There are important things to keep in mind about car safety ratings.
While it is true that a car that receives a higher rating is generally safer to be in during a collision, there are still significant risks involved in any type of car accident.
Additionally, understanding the agencies that make auto safety ratings and their methodologies can also help provide the vehicle owner with additional information.
Automobile safety ratings are determined by the performance of vehicles in crash tests. The primary goal is to determine how well the interior occupants would survive crash tests at certain speeds and from various directions. Each vehicle is tested under the same conditions to obtain a system of uniform automotive safety ratings that are easily comparable across the industry.
There are a number of features that will help increase a vehicle's car safety ratings. These features include: folding steering columns, reinforced door frames, crumple zones, airbags (front and side), and seat belts designed to work in conjunction with airbags, not independent of them. If all of these features are working to their maximum effectiveness during crash tests, the car's safety ratings should be quite high.
While there are international standards for car safety classifications, each country determines its own agency in charge of car safety classifications. Some countries may not test at all, but rather rely on data collected by others. In the United States, the two agencies that make automotive safety ratings are the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). NHTSA uses a five-star system, with five being the safest. The IIHS rates vehicles as poor, marginal acceptable, or good.
In general, most vehicle manufacturers use NHTSA numbers when advertising the safety of their vehicles. This is because it is much easier to achieve the safest rating with NHTSA than with IIHS. The IIHS, for example, simulates faults that are off-center, as most real-life faults would be. The IIHS also uses different sizes of mannequins to determine how passengers of different sizes would fare in vehicle accidents.
Three types of classifications are made that would normally cause injuries in most crashes.
Those are: frontal impact, side impact and rollover.
NHTSA is the only agency that conducts a rollover test.
The IIHS also conducts a low impact bumper test, which is a type of collision that would not normally cause injury.
However, this gives insurance companies and drivers an idea of how much repairs would cost in such a situation.