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How Are Car Safety Ratings Determined?

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Getting a new car can be a fun experience. You get upgraded electronics, better sound, and more features. Some of those features include updated safety equipment meant to keep you and your family safe while on the road.

This is an important factor in buying any new vehicle: safety ratings. Most car buyers look at safety ratings to help them narrow down their choice of vehicle. But understanding what those safety ratings mean and how they are decided is equally important. Making a wise decision when purchasing a vehicle may reduce the chances of a car accident and personal injury.

A Note on Car Safety Ratings

We all know that different vehicles offer better protection in a collision than others do. A common misconception, however, is that bigger vehicles and SUVs offer better protection for occupants in a crash. Although some do, others get failing scores. Therefore, when you are shopping for a new car, do not assume that bigger will always offer you better protection.

The Need for Ratings

Cars are incredibly popular. Even in a large metropolitan area such as Philadelphia, cars are nearly a necessity for most people. With so many vehicles packed into such a small area, it is likely that accidents will happen. That is exactly why ratings are necessary.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) first started testing vehicles in 1979. Since then, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has also started testing vehicles. Both the NHTSA and IIHS conduct crash tests, but the IIHS offers detailed results not only about how a vehicle handles a crash but also how test dummies are affected. With microchips and computers, the IIHS can tell what bones may have been broken and where a body may have suffered injuries in any vehicle crash test.

Crash test results often spur innovation from car manufacturers. When a car fails a test or performs lower than its direct competitors, a vehicle manufacturer often takes that information and makes changes to their vehicle to increase safety. Ultimately, a good safety rating can mean more revenue for a car manufacturer.

How Cars Are Tested

Crash tests are intriguing to watch, but they mimic only a certain type of accident. Not every vehicle will experience that exact type of collision. However, these crash tests are chosen because of their ability to show multiple points of failure in a vehicle’s design and how the vehicle holds up and protects occupants in a crash.

The NHTSA tests every new vehicle sold in the United States. They test for front, rear, and side impact crashes. These tests tell the experts what types of collisions put occupants at the greatest risk and give manufacturers clues about what they can do to further increase occupant safety. Accident-avoidance technology in a car can increase its safety rating.

The IIHS goes even further with its testing. They test how well the seats and headrests protect vehicle occupants. They also test evasive maneuvers to simulate a driver making a sudden swerve to avoid an accident. In larger vehicles, such as SUVs, this move can cause them to rollover.

Experts examine the following issues during a crash test:

  • Car automations used to avoid crashes, including auto steering and braking
  • The number and location of air bags
  • Electronic stability control’s ability to keep the car on all four tires
  • Rear impact protection
  • The structural integrity of the vehicle
  • Seat belt strength

Larger vehicles such as pickup trucks and SUVs may generally have lower scores than smaller cars because their likelihood of rolling over is higher, reducing their safety score. That is why you should look not only at the overall safety rating but also at individual safety test results to tell you exactly where a vehicle falls below average protection.

Possible Ratings

The point of conducting crash tests is to provide consumers with ratings. Although these ratings should not be the only consideration when buying a vehicle, they can give you an idea of how safe a car will be in the event of an accident.

Both the NHTSA and IIHS provide a rating score, though each one scores the results differently. The NHTSA rates cars out of five stars. The more stars a car receives, the more protection it offers to its occupants. Cars can receive the following ratings from the IIHS:

  • Poor
  • Marginal
  • Acceptable
  • Good

What do these ratings mean to a consumer looking to buy a new car? To oversimplify, the higher the rating, the more likely you are to be safe in an accident. However, that is not true in every situation because the crash tests simply test common accidents. Every accident is unique, involving unique factors. This can make it difficult to determine exactly what will happen to you when you get into an accident. That is why you should look at test scores when looking for a new car, but they should not be the only information you rely on when making a decision.

It is also important to remember that crash test ratings are not the only way to stay safe on the road. As a driver, you have a great deal of control over the safety of yourself and others when behind the wheel. You can be a vigilant driver, a defensive driver, and one who follows the laws. This is one of the best ways to stay safe.

But even being the best and most law-abiding driver will not prevent you from someone else’s mistakes. You cannot control another aggressive driver’s behavior. You cannot control the weather or the road conditions. Therefore, it is crucial to remain vigilant while driving, regardless of the rating your car received. The best way to stay safe on the road is to avoid accidents altogether.

What to Do if You Get into an Accident

Even if you buy a car rated five stars by the NHTSA or rated good by the IIHS, you may still get into an accident. If you do, it is important that you take certain steps to ensure your safety and your ability to get compensation from the negligent driver.

After an accident:

  • Call 911
  • Take pictures and video of the accident
  • Get medical attention
  • Speak with witnesses
  • Keep a journal to record your injuries and how they affect your daily life
  • Keep copies of medical records and bills
  • Call a lawyer

After a car accident, you may have suffered injuries that lead to you missing work and missing out on important life events. Even minor car accidents can cause injuries, resulting in costly medical bills and expenses. The burden to cover these bills, however, should not fall on you but should instead fall to the negligent driver. To help you achieve your goal of not paying out of your own pocket, you may need to partner with an experienced legal team who can work to investigate your accident and collect the evidence necessary to hold the negligent driver accountable.

Philadelphia Car Accident Lawyers at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC, Help You and Your Family after an Accident

Although you may not want to think about getting into a car accident, collisions happen, and you should choose a vehicle with good safety ratings. But even a car with best-in-class safety scores can still get into an accident. If that happens to you, reach out to the Philadelphia car accident lawyers at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC. Call us today at 215-569-4888 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Philadelphia, Abington, and Media, Pennsylvania; Wilmington, Delaware; and Haddonfield, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout the surrounding areas.