An Update to the NCAP’s 5 Star Safety Ratings – 40 Years in the Making

NCAP’s 5 Star Safety Despite a pandemic that reduced travel, 36,680 lives were lost on American roads in 2020. The first half of 2021 saw an 18% increase in fatalities on the road. According to AP News, this is the highest increase in fatalities recorded since 1975 when the government started keeping statistics on traffic related deaths.

This AP News article noted that the spike may have been due to eased restrictions after the pandemic, but traffic accidents and related deaths were already on the rise prior to the pandemic. In response to this evolving traffic fatality crisis, The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is planning to update its 5-Star Safety Ratings program, also known as the New Car Assessment Program (NCAP). The update is thought to be overdue since the program has not been drastically changed or upgraded since the 1980s. Are those 4- and 5-Star car ratings providing consumers with accurate and up-to-date information?

How do the current NCAP tests work?

The government’s consumer information program evaluates vehicle safety by testing vehicle performance in car crash scenarios and provides a safety performance rate of 1 through 5. This helps consumers make informed decisions about the safety of the vehicles they choose to drive. For more information about the program, see NHTSA Ratings.

Each year, the NHTSA picks a few dozen vehicles to assess using the set of safety tests that are part of the NCAP.

The tests include frontal, side barrier and side pole crash tests, as well as rollover resistance test scenarios. Most of the tests include a large male crash dummy in the driver seat and a small female crash dummy in the passenger seat. The dummies have not been upgraded since the program began in the 1980s, although there are newer crash dummy models available.

For example, Volvo, known for its safety features, has crash tested with female crash test dummies in the driver and passenger seat since 1995. In 2002, they included a small sized side impact dummy, then the world’s first mid-sized female crash test dummy. Following that, they even used a virtual model of a pregnant woman for crash testing.

Ten years later, Volvo continued to innovate and assess for whiplash during rear-end impacts using a midsize female crash test dummy. NCAP has yet to include such evaluations and/or test impacts on female drivers of varied sizes and shapes.

Although the NCAP has been touted as the premiere program for vehicle safety, updates are needed to keep up with recent technology, as well as the increase of vehicles on roads. Since its inception, the NCAP has not evaluated for rear impact collisions, which accounted for almost 1300 traffic fatalities in 2019, so this needs to be addressed as well.

Another key revision that safety experts are pushing for is the need for improved crash dummy technology, more accurate representation for female crash dummy models, as well as realistic crash dummy models varying in body shapes and sizes. There are other venues to be explored for better crash testing conditions and vehicle safety evaluation; this is just a minimal sampling of updates consumers and experts are hoping will be addressed.

What updates is the NHTSA proposing?

NHTSA is proposing the following updates to its 5-Star Safety Ratings program. You can find this proposal on the NHTSA website.

The proposal includes:

  • Recommending four new driver-assistance technologies: lane-keeping support, pedestrian automatic emergency braking, blind spot detection and intervention
  • Strengthening the current testing procedures and performance criteria for the driver-assistance technologies already included in NCAP
  • Establishing a 10-year roadmap for future NCAP updates
  • Requesting comment on ways to develop a meaningful ratings system for driver-assistance technologies
  • Considering the potential addition of emerging vehicle technologies related to driver distraction, alcohol detection, seat belt interlocks, intelligent speed assist, driver monitoring systems and rear seat child reminder assist
  • Discussing ways to provide a crash avoidance rating on the window sticker (Monroney label) on new and used vehicles

How will the NHTSA implement the updates to the 5-Star Safety Ratings Program?

In January of 2022, the Department of Transportation released the National Roadway Safety Strategy. The mission of this plan is to address “the national crisis in roadway fatalities and serious injuries.” U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg asserts:

We cannot tolerate the continuing crisis of roadway deaths in America. These deaths are preventable, and that is why we are launching the National Roadway Safety Strategy today – a bold, comprehensive plan, with significant new funding from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

While waiting for the NHTSA to implement this new safety testing criteria to the 5-Star Ratings Program, drive safely, and if you or a loved one are injured in a car accident, you deserve compensation from all responsible parties. With the reputable attorneys of Merkel & Cocke, P.A., on your side, you can fight to obtain a high-value settlement or verdict.

Mississippi statute of limitations for personal injury claims

Keep in mind that the statute of limitations to file a claim for compensation in Mississippi is at most three years from the date of the accident that caused your injury. While this might seem like a lot of time, the longer you wait to consult an attorney, the less time they have to prepare and file your claim. If you miss the statute of limitations, you can miss the opportunity to recover compensation.

Merkel & Cocke, P.A., provides client services from our offices in Jackson, Clarksdale, Greenville, and Oxford. We help the injured throughout Mississippi, including those in Tupelo and across the Gulf Coast region. To schedule a consultation, call our office at 662-627-9641, or submit our contact form today.