Magana Cathcart & McCarthy

New Federal Auto Safety Ratings Account for Advances in Automated Safety Features

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How do you know whether that new car you plan to purchase is safe? Whose opinion do you rely upon for an evaluation of whether or not the car will protect you and your family in a crash? As passenger vehicles quickly evolve to add new safety features to cars that increasingly automate the driving experience, as well as new protective technology and advances in air bag and bumper design, consumers need to rely on an objective evaluation of which cars are safest, and which technologies are worth the added expense (and which aren’t). The US National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) recently reexamined the standards it uses to rate the safety of new vehicles to look at some of these new technologies and determine their impact on driver safety.

NHTSA’s New Car Assessment Program has been operating since 1978 to provide safety ratings to all cars introduced to the US sales market. The current five-star rating system relies on three different crash tests, and while NHTSA recommends certain advanced safety technologies, such as backup cameras, the body does not rate those technologies within its five-star safety rating. If the suggested changes are approved, NHTSA will now provide a five-star rating that includes an evaluation specifically of crash-avoidance technology, including automatic braking and lane-departure warning tones. The new ratings will be based in part off using a new test crash known as the front oblique crash, where a car partially overlaps with another car or object in a front-end crash. The tests will make use of new, more technologically-advanced crash dummies, which should provide a more accurate representation of the sorts of injuries that drivers might experience than did the previous dummies. The new safety rating will also include an evaluation of the sorts of injuries that a pedestrian would experience when in a crash with the tested vehicle, which had not previously been something which the evaluators tested. Additionally, the five-star scores will be issued in half-star increments, in order to provide a more accurate portrayal of the safety differences between similar cars. The NHTSA expects that the revised ratings will be applied to new cars for the model year 2019. Incidentally, buyers should anticipate seeing these crash-avoidance technologies in new vehicles in the years leading up to the implementation of the revised standards, as manufacturers have a great deal to gain from having as high a star rating as possible.

If you or someone you love has been hurt in a car or truck accident in the Los Angeles area, contact the skilled and experienced personal injury and car accident law firm Magaña, Cathcart & McCarthy for a consultation on your claims, at 310-553-6630.

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