Federal regulators yesterday proposed a plan which will revamp the current National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s crash test ratings from the current one to five star crash test rating into a multifaceted ranking which would now include crash-avoidance and pedestrian safety measures.
The proposed crash test rating would include assessing crash-avoidance measures and would use higher-tech crash test dummies to examine a more in-depth reading of the forces impacting the dummy during an accident. The weight of these new factors has not yet been decided. According to USAToday, the new rating system would allow for half stars.
The move comes as the number of deaths reported in traffic accidents hit historic lows based on miles traveled. In 2014, there were 32,675 traffic fatalities but an increase of eight percent in the early part of 2015 alerted lawmakers that this progress may have stalled as the current system comes dated. Currently, opposers of the current rating system say that it is flawed because 90 percent of vehicles get ratings of at least four out of five stars, according to Mark Rosekind, NHSTA administrator. Making the test more difficult would encourage higher vigilance from manufacturers.
“Achieving that coveted 5-star rating is going to be tougher than ever, but that’s the way it should be,” he said.
To continue to encourage lower fatalities, judging vehicles based on crash-avoidance techniques will encourage automakers who do not make features like this standard to do so immediately. Without these measures, the crash test ratings on vehicles would suffer as the score for this weighted feature would be zero.
“NHTSA’s 5-Star Safety Ratings have set the bar on safety since it began in 1978, and today we are raising that bar,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement. “The changes provide more and better information to new-vehicle shoppers that will help accelerate the technology innovations that save lives.”
The new system would feature a variety of new features that vehicles would be judged on including:
- Forward-collision warning, automatic emergency braking and lane departure warnings.
- New crash-test dummies which could more accurately predict the types of injuries likely in accidents involving each model of vehicle.
- New crash test which would simulate an angled crash in addition to the traditional front-end and side crashes.
- Pedestrian crash rating to assess how well a front-end crash avoidance system works.
The current system focuses on crash worthiness while the proposed system would include how likely a vehicle is to avoid an accident on it’s own. This decision to propose legislation like this comes at a time where manufacturers are increasingly offering more avoidance technologies on their vehicles.
Examples include EyeSight from Subaru which is hailed as one of the best technologies in the industry. This system features a litany of cameras to let drivers know when they are starting to sway in their lanes, avoid front-end accidents and can help regulate cruise control to speed up or down in accordance with traffic.
Mercedes-Benz has a similar system which can also close windows, the sunroof and adjust head restraints to prepare occupants for an immanent crash. Numbers have not been released on how many injuries and fatalities have been prevented from this system which cradles passenger’s heads and reduces the likelihood of shards of glass.
The proposed legislation is open for public discussion and has not been passed into law yet. A recent law has been passed to require all vehicles to have back-up camera’s to avoid accidents which will go into affect 2018. This year has also seen proposed legislation to make it more difficult for hackers to remotely gain access of a vehicle’s electronics which would jam the accelerator, abruptly activate the brakes or aggressively jerk the steering wheel.