New NHTSA Safety Ratings: Government Crash Testing Gets Overhauled for 2011

New NHTSA Safety Ratings: Government Crash Testing Gets Overhauled for 2011

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has released information about its new five-star crash-test ratings for cars and trucks that promises tougher testing and lower test scores than we’ve seen in the past.

Today, we’ll tell you about the changes to the program. On Tuesday, our colleagues at will have comprehensive coverage of the first cars, crossovers, SUVs and minivans tested by government under the program.

Perhaps the most difficult new test added to NHTSA’s existing side and frontal crash tests is the so-called pole test, which simulates a 20-mph side impact into a 10-inch-diameter pole at a 75-degree angle just behind the A-pillar on the driver’s side.

To measure the risk of injury across a wider portion of the U.S. population better, NHTSA will add different-sized crash-test dummies, including a small adult female and medium-size adult male, and will increase injury data collected from the head, chest and legs to include the neck and arms.

Also new is a single, overall score that combines the results of the front, side and rollover crash tests and compares the results to the average risk of injury in similar vehicles. Consumers will find the overall score added to the window stickers of 2011 model year cars and trucks.

Because NHTSA is using a new system with different testing conditions, test results from 2010 and earlier won’t be directly comparable to the new 2011 procedures.

NHTSA will also highlight vehicles that have standard and optional advanced crash-avoidance technology, such as lane departure, electronic stability control and forward collision warning gear. The electronics won’t be factored into a vehicle’s overall score, but they will be noted at NHTSA’s website,


What hasn't changed?

NHTSA's rollover ratings continue to follow the same test and ratings methodology as before. The rollover rating estimates a vehicle's propensity to roll over, not the protection it provides when a rollover occurs. The star rating is based on a calculation of the vehicle's dimensions and center of gravity. The test subjects vehicles to a panic maneuver and reports whether it raises two wheels off the ground. The results supplement the star rating with a "tip" or "no-tip" notation.

NHTSA plans to test 55 2011 model year vehicles under the new system, including 24 passenger cars, 20 SUVs, two vans and nine pickup trucks. The pickup trucks include the Ram 1500 Quad Cab and crew cab; Ford F-150 SuperCab and SuperCrew; Ford Ranger SuperCab; Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Extended Cab and crew cab; Toyota Tacoma Double Cab; and Toyota Tundra Double Cab.

What do these new tests mean for truck buyers?

Some companies, like Ford, say their trucks are ready for the new standards.

“We’ve been aware the new test [standards] were coming,” Ford safety spokesman Wes Sherwood said. “The 2009-11 Ford F-150 already uses lightweight, high-strength materials that’s combined with advanced safety technology like the new K-bag airbag.”

Ford’s “K-bag” is a front-seat dual-chamber side airbag named for its unique shape. It’s designed to help protect the torso from excessive crash forces during a side impact and is standard equipment on the truck.

Toyota uses similar technology. The Tundra was the first full-size pickup to feature standard front-seat-mounted side and roll-sensing side curtain airbags in all models.

Chrysler spokesman Vince Muniga said it’s too early comment on the new safety test procedures until after the initial set of crash test results are released by NHTSA.

We’ll report back with NHTSA’s new pickup truck ratings as soon as they’re available.

[Source: NHTSA]


I'm all for safety. I emphasize safety at my workplace. But at the rate we're going we'll all be driving tanks before long. Safety, emissions and economy have really driven costs up for all vehicles.

@Jerry i agree. Safety, Power, Cost. Pick 2! the government is forcing every thing on us, with no regard for price.

It sounds like Chrysler/Dodge does not have torso bags. You would think after the marginal rating in 2009 that they would have added it. With NHTSA turning it up a notch, this could be a big problem for Ram's overall rating.

ford 150 king cab,,every time you shut the 3 door the cab shack tell me what is the problem,this is not normal..

I agree the goverment is driving the cost up and making people think they are safer and so they drive more stupidor(I made that word up). All these regulations drive the weight of the vehicle up which makes the gas mileage go down. The 1993 Grand Cherokee weighed 3,600 pounds, the 2001 that was redesigned with light weight transmission drive shaft and axles weighed 4,200 pounds, and the 2011 that they made 2inches wider weighs 4,800 pounds, all due to safer features and gas mileage has increased from 1993 to 2011 with the hi-tech engine 1 measly mpg.

Want to make driving safer? Train drivers. Its simple. Its fine to make cars safer but if there is still idiots driving them they are still damgerous no matter how many stars you give them. Not sure what the procedure in the states but in Canada all you have to do is read through a book and use that info to pass a driving test (assuming you have your learners). When its time to renew the licence just bring cash! You passed the test once so you must still know how to drive right? What a joke. If I had a dollar for everytime I encountered a stupid driver I could buy a helicopter and fly where ever I needed to go.

@ Jordan L - agreed.
Driving is often the most dangerous and complex skill people perform and they have to do it everyday.
How about manditory driver's licence retesting every 5 years? and it has to be a legitimate skills test.

no thanks. keep the government out of it. i don't want to live in a nanny state. i am very good driver!

all dodge had to do was put in the torso bag. they had enough time but decided to put in the $2500 fishing rod holder. if chevy who isnt known for their interiors can come come out with a torso then so should have dodge ram. ram made their bed.

Statistics show driving skills:
3 - 5 % good to excellent
63 % average
33% fair to poor

The ones in the 3-5% range are usually professional drivers or drivers who have received advanced driver training.

33% should not have a drivers licence.

It is easier for governments to force manufacturers to improve vehicle safety than to force drivers to improve skills or revoke licences.

It would be political suicide to cancel the licence of one(1) out of three(3) drivers on the road.

Think about that fact, say it over and over again - 1 out of 3 drivers should NOT have a licence!

@ Lou You just pointed out the biggest problem with Canada and the US. We want it so it becomes a right. There are so many things that fall into the same category. Everyine would agree that smoking is bad for your health. It costs billions of dollars to deal with the health concequences. So instead of banning cigs, Gov makes it illegal to smoke anywhere. But no politicain will ever grow a set and do what is needed to make things better. Oh well. We get what we deserve.

@ Jordan L - correct. We think driving is a right.
It is a privilege we earn.
Even if it were a right, rights do not come without responsibility.
We are responsible to use our rights wisely and not to the detriment of ourselves or others.

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