How Can the NHTSA Rating Help You?

Many of us have heard about crash test ratings, but we’re not sure exactly how they’re measured or what we should look for when reviewing them. We simply prefer cars with higher safety ratings. Even though we don’t know how the numbers are generated, they give us a sense of security.

The following list covers the types of tests that cars are subjected to when given their score, explaining why many car shoppers put such stock into those numbers.

  • The tests are administered and scores given by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. This governmental agency is responsible for testing every car model before it can be sold in the United States. Cars with higher ratings often sell much faster and in greater numbers than cars with lower ratings.
  • The tests that cars are subjected to include front and side impact crash tests and rollover tests. Front impact crash ratings are determined by crashing the car head-on into a barrier. The crash is designed to simulate a crash between two cars of roughly the same size both going 35 miles per hour. If the driver and the front seat passenger are well protected from the impact, the rating will be higher.
  • Side impact crash tests are done by smashing a barrier into the side of the car, simulating a crash between two cars going 3 miles per hour and 17 miles per hour. Ratings are determined by how well the driver and back left passenger are protected.
  • Rollover ratings evaluate the stability of the car. This is tested by measuring the car’s track and center of gravity and by putting the car through a series of high speed turns. Cars that are narrower and have high centers of gravity are more likely to roll over and would thus receive a lower rating.
  • It is important to note that these tests only measure protection on the driver’s side of the car. In front impact tests, ratings do not account for the safety of the back seat passengers, as they would not receive the brunt of the force. The same is true for side impact tests, wherein the safety of the right hand side of the vehicle is not taken into account. However, given that most cars are constructed symmetrically, and all cars are put through the same battery of tests, it is safe to assume that cars with higher ratings are safer in all cases.

What do you look for when evaluating a cars safety features?

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