Report calls for updating of NHTSA's car safety rating system

Newer vehicles may not be as safe as West Virginia residents think. The reason, according to one critical report, is that the current five-star safety rating system employed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is outdated. This rating system was developed back in the 1990s and is based on the results of crash testing performed in a laboratory with dummies.

One problem the report points out is that the U.S. is performing an inadequate number of crash tests. Europe, for example, performs four times as many tests before determining a safety rating, and Asia and Latin America also surpass the U.S. in this regard. The NHTSA, for its part, has promised to add test procedures and new ratings for the various safety features that have been developed in recent years, like pedestrian detection.

The NHTSA has also promised to design new crash test dummies to better assess the interaction of drivers and passengers of all ages with a vehicle when in a crash. However, these changes are yet to come, and the report partly blames this on lack of funding.

The report, in addressing only the NHTSA's rating system, has its limitations. Some experts say that drivers need access to real-world data before deciding to purchase one car or another. They believe the Fatality Analysis Reporting System provides precisely this data but needs to be more accessible to the public.

With that data, drivers can see, for example, what types of negligent driving contribute to a crash and whether that negligence arose from, say, the various features on the car. Sometimes, a driver becomes distracted even by safety tech. However the crash occurs, victims may be eligible for compensation. West Virginia law requires that one be deemed less than 50% at fault to recover damages. For help with filing a claim, victims may hire a lawyer.

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