Every year, two organizations perform crash tests on a number of popular new cars and trucks to evaluate their ability to protect occupants in collisions: the National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA), which is part of the United States Department of Transportation, and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), an independent, non-profit safety organization. Both perform their own specific frontal and side crash tests. And that’s a good thing. By considering the results from both organizations, you can get a better sense of how well a vehicle will fair in a collision.
NHTSA Tests: The NHTSA performs tests that simulate frontal and side impacts as part of their New Car Assessment Program (NCAP). You probably know the NCAP rating as the “government five-star safety ratings.” In addition to the collision tests, the NHTSA is the only group that presently performs a rollover resistance test. It assigns star-ratings to vehicles that underwent this assessment as well.
IIHS Tests: The IIHS assesses not only front and side collisions, but also seat and head restraints in rear crashes and bumpers in low-speed crashes. Unlike the NHTSA’s test, the IIHS frontal test is offset; meaning that only one side of the front end is hit. The idea is to simulate a real world crash between two vehicles. Note: The IIHS does not use stars in its rating system. Instead, they rank vehicles using these grades: Good, Acceptable, Marginal or Poor.
Thanks to these organizations, car buyers now have a wealth of useful information about vehicle safety under critical circumstances. To explore in greater detail the math and science behind the NHTSA’s New Car Assessment Program and the five star rating system or to find out the results for a specific vehicle, visit www.safercar.gov. To learn more about the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s testing program, or to view vehicle results, go to www.iihs.org.