Test 101

Crash Tests

Since the inception of the automobile, millions of people have been killed in car-related crashes and accidents. Because the statistics are so alarming, the manufacturing and insurance industries along with government agencies continue to explore safety options in vehicles. Automotive crash tests are one such safety measure and results of crash tests are available to consumers on nearly all makes and models.

In the United States, two separate, but large institutions perform independent crash tests on vehicles. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has a New Car Assessment Program uses results from crash tests on vehicles manufactured after 1994 for consumer awareness. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety performs independent crash tests for the insurance industry, but the results are available only on a limited number of late-model vehicles.

When automotive crash tests are performed on a vehicle, crash test dummies are used to gather safety information about potential drivers and passengers of each vehicle. Crash tests are performed based on frontal impact and side impact collisions. The data is then gathered and the vehicle is given a safety performance rating. Vehicles are assigned a weight-class for crash tests and the assigning of a safety rating.

Most consumers are familiar with the performance ratings indicated by stars. A five-star safety rating indicates excellent results from crash tests, with declining numbers of stars indicating less acceptable results. Since the majority of consumers are safety conscious, manufacturers are using their safety ratings as sales and marketing tools. Hence, automotive crash tests help to drive automotive engineers and manufacturers to produce safer vehicles.

For the consumer, it can offer a little peace of mind knowing they have purchased a vehicle that performed well in crash tests, but it is important to remember that crash tests only provide data that is gathered under specific circumstances. Without improvements to vehicle design and safety features such as seat belts, air bags, and infant car seats, crash tests alone would not save lives.

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