The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) safety ratings are very vital in preventing injuries, saving lives and reducing vehicle crashes by providing necessary information on vehicle safety and crash avoidance methods. The NHTSA, which is part of the Executive Branch and the Department of Transportation of the US government, has through the years provided safety ratings for vehicles, revising these safety ratings yearly while providing more stringent tests and ratings for newer vehicles. This agency not only enforces safety but also theft resistance and provides fuel economy standards for motor vehicles.
Presently, NHTSA safety ratings are incorporated in a five-star New Car Assessment Program. There are about 300 new trucks, minivans, sports utility vehicles and cars out on the market today and more than 50 of those models are to be tested by the NHTSA today. The tougher tests and rigorous new 5 star safety ratings started with 2011 vehicle models that is why ratings for 2011 vehicle models and newer vehicles are not comparable with ratings for 1990 to 2010 models. The general vehicle score as well as front crash ratings can only be compared to other vehicles which are of the same size and weight.
NHTSA safety ratings have been considered much tougher with many models with a double five star frontal ratings in 2010 now just having a four star rating. Other models dropped even further such as the ratings of the Toyota Camry, Toyota Sienna minivan, the Subaru Legacy, and the 2011 Nissan Versa subcompact. These stringent NHTSA measures that result in lower ratings are attributed to the NHTSA safety rating program that has introduced three main changes. The changes are the addition of a side pole test, higher changes in the size of crash test dummies including the additional information that were gathered.
Changes in the safety rating program of the NHTSA includes the provision of a single rating for the frontal impact crasher rather than the cite driver and passenger separately for the previous program. Another change concerns the side impact rating which is no longer divided into front and rear seat results.
The last third of the 20th century saw a significant reduction in deaths caused by vehicle crashes or collisions and this major reduction in fatalities was attributed to the initial NHTSA safety standards enforced from 1968 to 1984 as well as to the subsequent voluntary changes in the crashworthiness of vehicles as provided by the vehicle manufacturers.