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NHTSA New Car Safety Ratings Program To Receive Significant Upgrade and Improvements

Federal highway safety regulators plan to make significant updates to the 5-Star Safety rating system used to assess new vehicles, as part of an effort designd to encourage vehicle manufacturers to invest in safety technology that has been proven to save lives.

On October 16, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced that it will make significant updates and upgrades to its New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) next year, specifically focusing on crash avoidance and pedestrian safety technologies.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the NCAP’s 5-Star Safety Ratings Program, which is responsible for evaluating new vehicle safety performance. The program performs various crash scenarios and independently assessing the safety of vehicles to objectively give a rating between one and five stars so consumers may make an informed decision when purchasing a vehicle.

By assigning a safety rating for a vehicle that is public to consumers, the NCAP is designed to create a market-based incentive for automakers to continue investing in innovative safety technologies that can help prevent crashes and save lives.

According to the press release, officials from NCAP have proposed the 2020 5-Star Safety Ratings Program include new technologies, new test procedures, updates to vehicle labeling, advancements in crash-test dummies and continued consumer research to ensure NCAP’s products are effectively meeting the public’s needs.

“Our program has been a tremendous success and has saved many lives, but far too many American families still lose loved ones every year, and we firmly believe that vehicles can and should be even safer in the future,” NHTSA Acting Administrator James Owens said. “That is why NHTSA is working on improving the program to make the 5-Star Safety Ratings Program even more dynamic, and to accelerate NCAP modernization to keep pace with advancements in safety technology.  American car buyers want safety, and NHTSA wants to help by creating additional market-based incentives for automakers to continue investing in innovative safety technologies that will save lives and prevent injuries.”

Other Safety Improvements Are In The Works

NHTSA officials say they are currently considering new technologies that could be used to prevent pedestrian and cyclist crashes, which have recently increased at alarming rates.

Earlier this year, the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) issued the 2018 Pedestrian Fatality Report, indicating night time pedestrian death increases far exceeded day time fatalities. The number of night time pedestrian fatalities increased by 45% compared to the 11% increase in daytime pedestrian fatalities.

Pedestrian fatalities have become a major focus of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which released a series of safety recommendations in September 2018, calling for the NHTSA, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Federal Highway Administration (FHA) to collaborate on efforts to produce better standards to protect pedestrians.

Past studies found forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking systems are able to reduce front-to-rear crashes by nearly half. In a previous study involving Acura, Fiat Chrysler, Honda, Mercedes-Benz, Subaru and Volvo vehicles, the combination for the two technologies reduce crashes by 50 percent of all severities, and by 56% of those involving injuries.

In March 2016, NHTSA officials were able to get 20 automobile manufacturers, which account for more than 90% of the nation’s vehicle fleet, to publicly commit to implementing automatic emergency braking technology in all standard lightweight vehicles, rather than charging a premium to consumers to add the technology as a luxury feature.

NHTSA reports 10 of the 20 automobile manufacturers have stuck by their commitment, with Tesla being the leader, selling 100 percent of new vehicles with automatic emergency braking as a standard feature. Mercedes-Benz was second, with a 96 percent rate of automatic emergency braking implementation followed by Volvo, Toyota then Audi, all with conformance rates between 87% and 93%.

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