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Car and Driver: NHTSA Overhauling Crash Tests for 2019 Model Year Cars

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Mercedes-Benz SLK-class crash test


The federal government, in its first major update of vehicle safety laws in seven years, wants to toughen crash tests to measure pedestrian impact and to evaluate driver assists such as automatic braking.



The U.S. government agency was no doubt spurred into action by the industry group Insurance Institute for Highway Safety—which within the past three years began rating automatic-braking systems and essentially forced automakers to strengthen crash structures for a new small front-overlap test, all without a legal mandate. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released a proposal this week that would cover most 2019 model year vehicles and upgrade the five-star rating system, notably with the ability to score half-stars.


For the first time, NHTSA will set crash standards to minimize pedestrian injuries, as has been the norm in Europe for several years, with ratings on how vehicles strike a person’s head, legs, and pelvis. A new frontal crash test would send a vehicle into a barrier at a prescribed angle, while the usual head-on impact will be revised to “drive safety improvements for rear seat occupants.” Driver assists and autonomous safety features, such as blind-spot monitoring and lane-departure warning, will actually be tested instead of simply indicated on the agency’s website. New crash-test dummies also will be used for more realistic results, the agency said. NHTSA last proposed changes to its crash tests in 2008, which were adopted for the 2011 model year (among them was a side pole test that, without specifically mandating curtain airbags, essentially required them for a car to pass).


NHTSA will issue a final ruling at the end of 2016 after a two-month comment period, which is the norm for new federal regulations. Expect automakers to weigh in heavily. If you’d like to dive into the proposal in more detail, feel free to read all 195 pages here.


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