How to Interpret Crash Test Results

Lever & Ecker, PLLC January 16, 2018 Car Accidents,General

Overall, today’s vehicles are safer than they have ever been. However, the crash test ratings for each vehicle varies on a wide spectrum. When choosing a vehicle, you want to feel comfortable that in the event of a car accident, your car will protect you. While shopping for a vehicle, you may consider looking at crash test results to aid in your decision. According to, there are some important things to know about crash tests including:

  1. Not all results can be compared.
  2. Crash tests can differ by agency.
  3. NHTSA’s star-rating has been revamped.
  4. Government rollover ratings have shortcomings.
  5. Roof-strength tests provide important data.
  6. Some models are not rated.

We will go over these in detail below.

1) Comparing Crash Test Results

It is important to remember that you can only compare model-to-model frontal crash test results for cars that are within the same vehicle class, or close to the same weight (within 250 pounds of one another). This is because this specific test analyzes only how that exact vehicle would fare against another of the same weight, not one larger or much smaller.

Obviously, a heavier vehicle will better protect its occupants than a lighter vehicle would. Based on this, a larger vehicle with a low rating is not always safer than a smaller vehicle with a high rating. As of yet, researchers have not found a reliable method for determining the effect of size on a vehicle’s score.  

2) Disparities Between Agencies

Two main agencies are in charge of performing different types of frontal crash tests. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration performs their tests by crashing a vehicle head-on into an immovable barrier. The knock on this test is that neither the angle nor the obstacle used simulate with the majority of real-world accidents. On the other hand, the IIHS conducts its frontal crash tests with a barrier that better simulates another vehicle. This provides more accurate test results as it better represents real-world car accidents.

3) Changes in The Stars

In the 2011 model year, the NHTSA’s New Car Assessment Program encountered an overhaul. New testing came into play including a new side-pole test and a broader range of crash test dummy weights and sizes. The new testing can record more data that accompanies the already existing frontal and side-impact test ratings. The drawback of the new testing happens to be that cars made before 2011 do not have current test results, making it impossible to know how they perform in new testing environments.

4) Differing Results for Side-Impacts

The NHTSA now factors head injury data into its side impact ratings. This test incorporates a side barrier test with a pole test and simulates a vehicle crashing sideways into a tree or post. This test is meant to reveal weaknesses that would not be otherwise shown in a barrier test when a car is t-boned by the barrier sled.

The sled that is used in these tests is around the same weight and size as a mid-sized sedan. The sled that is used by the IIHS is roughly the size of a full-size SUV or pickup, which simulates a much more dangerous scenario. In either case, because the size of the sled is consistent, comparisons of the side-impact tests are valid across all vehicle classes.

5) Government Rollover Ratings Miss the Mark

In the 2001 model year, automakers and safety experts believed that the NHTSA’s original Rollover Resistance Ratings were sub-par because they were solely based on mathematical calculations and not actual driving tests. This changed a bit in the 2004 model year when the NHTSA decided to combine mathematics with something called the “fishhook” dynamic driving test. This is a test in which a vehicle swerves suddenly and then overcorrects.

The results of the test will reveal the chances that the car in question has of rolling over based on if it tipped on two wheels or not. While this test may seem like a step in the right direction, some still criticize its accuracy.

6) Roof-Strength Results Offer Key Insight

The IIHS uses a roof-strength test to show how a roof might protect a car’s occupants in a car accident. In 2010 the IIHS began to rate car models by how well their roofs could sustain up to four times their weight in a crush test. This test can provide consumers with an idea of how well their car’s roof will hold up in the event of a serious rollover accident.

7) Is Your Model Not Rated?

If you notice that there are no test results for the model of car you’re trying to research, it may be because it is pending testing or it may not have been tested at all. This situation was brought on by the NHTSA when it revamped its testing in 2011, making tests before that essentially void.

Both the IIHS and the NHTSA test the highest volume vehicles on the market. For this reason, convertibles are rarely tested. Test results for cars that are new or recently engineered are likely to be released months after the car goes on sale.

Speak with a Car Accident Lawyer Now

Choosing a new car for yourself, a spouse, and the family can be a hard and stressful decision. It is important to conduct lengthy research, so you know exactly how safe and efficient the vehicle you want to buy is. In the case of safety, researching how a car performs when the unexpected happens should be essential in your buying process. If you happen ever to be involved in a car accident in White Plains, contact the car accident lawyers at Lever & Ecker, PLLC. We have over 20 years of experience in New York car accident law and are prepared to help you in your case. We will take your case personally and fight for the compensation you deserve.

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