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Do Automobile Safety Ratings Matter?

Americans love to buy consumer products. In fact, the United States is the largest consumer economy in the world, where consumer spending accounts for almost 70 percent of the country’s gross domestic product. 

That could explain the unending list of product rankings and ratings. With the internet and social media, there has been a proliferation of reviews, opinions, and discussions on almost any product you can buy, from makeup to bicycles and camping gear. Bloggers and influencers write and post thoughts on social media websites. Likewise, purchasers provide feedback on retail websites like Google, Yelp, and Facebook. 

But everyone recognizes the enormous purchase cost and the heightened importance of safety when it comes to cars and trucks. Therefore, safety reviewers go the extra mile, and even the government gets involved in providing safety ratings. In this blog, we will consider whether these ratings matter.

Crash Tests

You might have seen television commercials relating to automobile crash testing. Indeed, car manufacturers perform their own safety tests. However, two prominent organizations that do not have an ownership interest in automobiles also perform tests – the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS). We will discuss each below.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

NHTSA uses its “5-Star Safety Ratings” program as part of its mission to reduce injury, death, and economic loss caused by motor vehicle crashes. The higher the numerical rating, the safer the car. You can compare safety ratings for different vehicles at the NHTSA website we have provided. The Agency performs the following tests:

  • Frontal crash – this test simulates head-on collisions.
  • Side barrier crash – this test is intended to imitate intersection crashes where the front of one car hits the side of another – sometimes referred to as a “T-Bone” type of accident.
  • Side pole crash – this imitates an impact caused to the driver’s side of the vehicle when the driver loses control and slides sideways into a pole.
  • Rollover resistance – tests the vehicle’s likelihood of rolling over when entering a curve at 55 miles per hour.

Insurance Institute of Highway Safety

The IIHS performs tests focusing on two factors – (1) crashworthiness; and (2) crash avoidance and mitigation. The first category deals with the protection of occupants within the vehicle. The second category deals with technology related to avoiding crashes and making them less severe. We have provided a link where you can search and determine a particular vehicle’s ratings. The best rating under this system is “Top Safety Pick.”

Do Automobile Safety Ratings Really Matter?

Most observers agree that safety ratings have played an essential role in increasing the safety of automobiles. Manufacturers know that safety is a crucial factor for many consumers making a purchase. Therefore, car manufacturers want to have a high safety ranking. It is also undeniable that safety features in automobiles have improved over time. For example, IIHS reports that a study has confirmed that a driver in a car that earns a good rating with its small overlap front crash test is 12 percent less likely to die in a head-on crash than a driver in a car with a poor rating.

However, it is also important to remember that many automobiles on the road do not have top safety ratings. Moreover, even when a car does have a high safety rating, the crash tests were generally performed at speeds of approximately 35 miles per hour. Consumer Reports notes that these results may not be as valuable as one thinks in crashes at higher rates of speed. In the end, nothing helps safety more than good, safe drivers.

Call with Questions

If you have been injured in an automobile accident, you likely have questions about your rights. The experienced Oregon personal injury attorneys at Nelson MacNeil Rayfield are here to answer them for you in a free consultation. We believe that holding negligent drivers accountable for their behavior is imperative if we want safer roads.