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How Are Car Safety Ratings Determined?

Delaware Car Accident Lawyers discuss car safety.

Deciding which car to buy can be a difficult decision. Before purchasing a vehicle, you might check out safety ratings online for information and recommendations. That way, you can proceed with a little more confidence.

Having immediate accessibility to car safety ratings makes vehicle shopping much easier. However, how are safety ratings determined? There are plenty of considerations that go into evaluating how safely a car will perform. Those considerations are made primarily by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), although other entities may also issue car safety ratings.

Unlike other entities, such as a car’s manufacturer or a dealership, the IIHS can provide an objective vehicle safety overview. For more than half a century, the IIHS has been in existence. Today, one of the organization’s main purposes is to use data to determine a car’s likeliness to protect drivers and passengers in a car accident and in other dangerous scenarios.

Additionally, lawmakers often rely on the organization’s findings to guide legal rules, regulations, and suggestions. This makes the IIHS a powerful agency. It also gives it tremendous influence when it comes to assessing car safety ratings.

What Specific Elements Go Into the Car Safety Rating System?

Researchers at the IIHS scrutinize many aspects of a car’s design and responsiveness before issuing a rating. All aspects fall under four basic elements:

  • How effective are the seat belts?
  • How effective are the airbags?
  • What is the survival space?
  • What happens to crash dummies involved in a mock car accident?

The IIHS uses a wide range of equipment and several tests to answer these questions. Equipment during those tests can involve anything from specialized software to carefully installed cameras designed to deliver precise feedback at the moment of impact.

What Happens in a Crash Test?

Cars that undergo IIHS crash tests are evaluated in a few ways. First, the car undergoes an accident at a medium-level speed. Afterward, researchers take careful measurements to figure out what would have happened to real people who had been involved in the incident. Next, testers see what will happen if the car is hit on either side. By varying the intensity of the impact, testers can decide what would happen in the case of a side-impact or similar accident. From that point, the tests will determine the strength of the roof. This helps get a better understanding of how the car would fare during a rollover accident. Finally, the car undergoes a mock rear-end collision.

Taken together, these tests help paint a picture of how safe it would be to be in the car during each type of common accident. To come up with their final rankings, the IIHS considers other elements of the car, including its headlight effectiveness and other safety features, like automatic brakes.

Are Car Safety Tests Fair?

You may wonder if all the safety tests are fair. Cars fall into different classes, so does that mean that smaller, less expensive car models are destined to get poor ratings since they may have fewer safety features? The IIHS takes different vehicle types into consideration, and they judge cars based on the standards that make sense for the car they are testing. That way, every car is vetted fairly. It is not uncommon for the IIHS to issue its Top Safety Pick award to a variety of car models.

Are There Other Car Safety Ratings?

Plenty of car buyers immediately look at IIHS rankings. However, the IIHS is not the only organization issuing car safety ratings. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has its own star-based ranking system. Like the IIHS, the NHTSA is not beholden to any car manufacturer or organization. Therefore, when the NHTSA gives out five stars, its highest rating, it does so based on tests.

The tests performed by the NHTSA are similar to those completed by the IIHS. After simulating many types of crashes, the NHTSA can assign a ranking. Many cars that get high ratings from the IIHS also get high ratings from the NHTSA.

It should be noted that the NHTSA and IIHS tend to focus their crash tests only on popular, high-volume car models. Therefore, if you intend to purchase an exotic vehicle or limited edition car, you may not be able to find either an IIHS or NHTSA ranking.

Should a Safety Rating Be a Determining Factor When Buying a Car?

When buying a new or used car, you will probably want to check out its ratings. Why? Knowing whether a car has been assessed as poor, marginal, acceptable, or good by leading testing agencies will help you determine if it is worth your money. On the other hand, you never want to make a car buying decision based on ratings alone. Instead, use the ratings as one of many considerations, such as:

  • The crash history of the car.
  • The age and health of the vehicle.
  • The car price point versus your budget.
  • The safety add-ons of the car.
  • The expected cost to keep up the car.

What if I Get in a Car Accident?

Even if you drive a car that has excellent safety ratings, you could still be injured in a serious accident. At that point, you will want to get the medical attention you need. Early medical treatment is the wisest course of action.

You may also want to contact a lawyer. Retaining a lawyer can be vital if you plan on suing another party for negligence.

Wilmington Car Accident Lawyers at Jacobs & Crumplar, P.A. Fight on Behalf of Those Seriously Injured in Collisions

Before you purchase a car, you should review its safety ratings. However, even in a safe, modern car, you can still be injured by a negligent motorist in an accident. If you have been injured in a collision, our Wilmington car accident lawyers at Jacobs & Crumplar, P.A. can help. Call us at 302-656-5445 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation. Located in Wilmington and Millsboro, Delaware, we serve clients throughout Dover, New Castle County, and Sussex County.