The "5 Star Crash Test Rating:" An Auto Industry Fallacy

Every day people rely on the "5 Star Safety Rating" when researching cars. Just because everyone uses it as a major resource when rating cars, does not mean it is reliable. Accidents, unlike crash-tests performed in a laboratory, occur very quickly and not in a controlled setting. However, cars are repeatedly tested under controlled conditions and the results of those tests are supposed to make people confident that their car will keep them safe.

What tests are actually performed under what conditions to deem a car "5 Star Safe?" What does the rating even mean to a consumer? If you have an automobile accident case, the results of these crash-tests can play a vital role.

In the grand scheme of the automobile industry, large insurance companies control the tests that make up the actual rating system. For insurance companies to be most profitable, they want to have to pay as few injury claims as possible. Luckily, this also keeps people safe.

In the United States, two major crash-test resources are most heavily relied upon. One is the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Part of the Department of Transportation, they rate cars from one star to five stars. The more stars a car is rated, the less likely injury or death is to occur in that car. The second, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), is a group of researchers hired by insurance companies to provide them with crash-test results. After conducting tests, the IIHS rates a car based on a four level range: poor, marginal, acceptable, and good. Both the NHTSA and the IIHS test safety features such as seatbelts, head restraints, and air bags to see how a person would be affected in an accident.

This year, the NHTSA has changed their crash-test system making it more difficult for a car to receive 5 stars. The new system will take into account height, weight, and size of a person by using varying sized dummies rather than one that represents an average sized human. Additionally, rather than cars being assessed based on the likelihood of injury occurring, cars will be tested and compared to other cars of its class. For example, to be a car known for having the best back seat protection for infants, it will have to perform better during crash-tests than other cars in the same class. The NHTSA is also changing their crash-test procedure to better understand how legs, feet, knees, and thighs are impacted during a crash and how the head and neck specifically move upon front, side and rear impact.

The IIHS crash-tests attempt to see how a car performs structurally and how different safety features keep passengers in the car safe. One focus of the IIHS is rear collisions. Although not many rear impact collisions are fatal, they can result in serious injuries. The problem with IIHS's test is that the two cars used are of equal weight and height. In reality, car crashes usually occur between cars that are not exactly the same proportions.

While the NHTSA and the IIHS test how safe the occupant of a car is, the tests are performed in controlled settings. Car accidents in the real world have many more variables including different sized cars and humans, different speeds, and different road conditions. Crash-tests run in laboratories, for example, fail to take into account the affect that a different sized bumper and varying car heights can have on a person.

From spending hours litigating and with accident reconstruction experts, the Lessem Newstate & Tooson, LLP knows how a car's structure and safety features keep a driver or passenger in a car safe. Crash-test ratings can provide a sense of security when purchasing a car, but if you have been injured from an accident, the Lessem Newstat & Tooson, LLP can evaluate your particular case based on real factors. We are not fooled by the "5 Star Crash Test Rating." The Ventura Injury Law Group has the experience, knowledge, and experts you need to get the compensation you deserve.