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In 1978 the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) began crash-testing popular vehicle models in the United States. Their protocol (FMVSS 208) involved running vehicles head-on into a fixed barrier at 35 mph.  Results were published for the information of consumers, as the US arm of the international New Car Assessment Program (NCAP).  Today's passenger vehicles are designed to be more crashworthy than they used to be, largely thanks to this testing. Still, over 30,000 occupants die in crashes on U.S. roads each year. 

The very success of the NCAP means remaining differences in performance among most new vehicles in full-width tests are small. This doesn't mean important crashworthiness differences no longer exist. They do exist, and additional crash test configurations can highlight these differences. One such test is the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's (IIHS) frontal offset crash.  Full-width and offset tests complement each other. Full-width tests are especially demanding of restraints but less demanding of structure, while the reverse is true in offsets.


Full-width frontal impact crash test - NHTSA and OSA currently use this procedure for their full-width frontal impact collisions.  Dummies are seated in the driver's and front passenger seat.  The vehicle crashes head-on into a rigid concrete barrier at 35 mph  (56 km/h).  Afterwards, researchers measure and evaluate the impact on the dummies' head, chest, and legs.  

This test provides very high deceleration forces to the test dummies and is particularly well  suited to the evaluation of occupant restraint systems such as seat belts and air bags.  Of note, however, the damage done to the vehicle itself is not assessed.

Full-width frontal crash-test rating categories:  Chance of life-threatening injury

 Less than 10% chance (5 stars)
 10-19% chance (4 stars)
 20-34% chance (3 stars
 35-45% chance (2 stars)
 More than 45% chance (1 star)

NHTSA's Star Ratings - In 1994, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) changed the way they rated frontal crash test performance. Instead of the confusing numerical scale they had used, NHTSA converted to a five-star rating system.  Crashtest.com converts the NHTSA full-width frontal impact star ratings into our color-coordinated system as shown in the chart above.


Side Impact - Two years ago, NHTSA added testing for side-impact protection. For side-impact testing, NHTSA runs a 3,015 lb moving trolley into the side of a car twice, once at the front passenger's level and once at the rear passenger's level.

As with frontal impact testing, the side impact test is conducted at five mph above the federal standard, which means the trolley hits the car at 38 mph.  Crashtest.com converts the NHTSA Side Impact star ratings into our color-coordinated system as shown in the chart below.

Side Impact Crash-Test Rating Categories:  Chance of Life-Threatening Injury

 Less than 6% chance (5 stars)
 6-10% chance (4 stars)
 11-20% chance (3 stars)
 21-25% chance (2 stars)
 More than 25% chance (1 star)

Crashtest.com converts the NHTSA full-width frontal impact star ratings into our color-coordinated system as shown in the chart above.


Impact Angle Data - Full-width frontal impacts account for 48% of all motor vehicle collisions.  Offset and side impact collisions split the next 48% while rear-impacts account for the remaining 4%.
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USNCAP Testing Needs Revision - The NHTSA testing regimen remains virtually the same now, 23 years later, as when it began. The only major addition has been a side-impact test (adopted from the Euro-NCAP side-impact test).

Recent testing by the International NCAP Agencies has shown that the the full-width frontal crash test does not show how effectively a vehicle's safety cage or occupant restraint systems will protect the occupants of a vehicle in real-world collisions.  It is possible for a NHTSA test to result in "good" head and chest injury measurements (and therefore a good star rating) even though the structure performs poorly or becomes unstable.  In these cases the risk to life in a slightly different crash configuration, or slightly higher speed, could result in a much higher risk of serious injury.  

In the US, mandatory airbag legislation has substantially equalized the testing results of most full-width collisions. For example, ALL of the vehicles tested by the NHTSA in the past few years have earned a minimum of 3 stars in their full-width collision.  With no significant variation in results, it's significantly harder for consumers differentiate between vehicles.  

In summary, the US NCAP needs to adopt a more modern method of testing.  Australia has already abandoned the NHTSA full-width  test and has gone with the Euro NCAP (EEVS) system.  Adoption of the IIHS or European EEVS testing system is clearly indicated in the case of the US NCAP (NHTSA). 

A new report detailing the latest proposals for updating the FMVSS 208 test procedures has just been published. Please read (in pdf) "Updated Review of Potential Test Procedures for FMVSS 208 - October 1999" 

Read the Advocates For Highway And Auto Safety Report from  September 16th 1999: Stuck in Neutral: Recommendations For Shifting The Highway And Auto Safety Agenda  (PDF version here)

For further information on current US DOT Crashworthiness Rulemaking Activites consider reading the following DOT reports:

1. Status Report on Establishing a Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard for Frontal Offset Crash Testing - April 1997  |  2. NHTSA Plan for Achieving Harmonization of the U.S. and European Side Impact Standards - April 1997  |  3. Status of NHTSA Plan For Side Impact Regulation Harmonization and Upgrade - March 1999  |  4. Advanced air bag safety standard proposal notice (To take full effect in 2005)  |  5. Identification of Issues Relevant to Regulation, Design, and Effectiveness of Head Restraints - November 1996  |  6. Status Report on Establishing a Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard for Frontal Offset Testing - April 1997

For further information on International NCAP test procedures please consider reading the following research papers presented by Australian safety engineer Michael Paine:  1. Consumer Crash Tests: The Elusive Best Practice | 2. Offset Crash Tests | 3. Guidelines for Crashworthiness Rating Systems 

US Residents - If, after reading these documents, you feel (as we do) that the US DOT is dragging their feet, write to your US Senator and Congressman. 


 
  轿车工业
越来越多的中国人拥有汽车或汽车梦,这个潜在的庞大市场吸引海内外汽车制造商的进入,加入世界贸易组织(WTO)意味着中国市场面向世界开放。
 
 
  客车世界
高速公路网的建设以及城市公共交通服务水平的改善,中国巴士和客车的需求正不断地增长,《客车世界》资料的有偿服务将为你工作提供帮助。
 
 
  卡车天地
商用卡车一直在中国运输产业中起着重要作用,如何从质量、油耗、寿命和故障等方面考虑选择使用卡车却是一个新课题。
 
 
  摩托车界
中国是自行车的王国,也是全球最大的摩托车制造商。当自行车逐渐被摩托车所取代后,电动自行车的市场前景究竟有多大?
 






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