Highway Safety and Crash Testing Organizations
By Cathy Nikkel /autoMedia.com
As those crash results hit the media, automakers began to use good crash-test
results as selling points. As vehicle crash-test ratings moved up from a
majority of poor to mediocre ratings, to good ratings, the automakers began
moving toward crash avoidance technology to prevent crashes from happening at
all. The Electronic Stability Control program, based on anti-lock braking
systems, was the first of such technology to show substantial promise as a
crash avoidance tool, reducing crashes on wet roads for passenger cars by 75
percent and for SUVs on wet roads by 88 percent. NHTSA is considering
mandating this type of system on all future passenger vehicles.
Both NHTSA and IIHS have web sites that offer consumers a wealth of
information. The IIHS site (www.iihs.org)
is more straightforward than the NHTSA site
(www.nhtsa.dot.gov), but each site offers its own wealth of information.
NHTSA can mount a recall when a safety defect is uncovered. Complaints from
consumers are investigated and, if a safety defect is found, the manufacturer
is ordered to conduct a recall and repair the defect. The direct route to
finding recall information on the NHTSA site is to log on to Vehicles &
Equipment at the top of the site then click on Recalls/Defects on the left
sidebar and plug in the year, make, and model to get recall information. The
site also offers technical service bulletins (TBS) or advisories issued by
manufacturers to the dealership service departments. These are not safety or
emission problems. However, if your vehicle is under warranty and the service
department can confirm that your vehicle has the problem, it can be fixed for
free. Only a summary of the TSBs is free on the NHTSA site. For a fee, you can
get the entire TSB mailed to you.
NHTSA also offers a wealth of information on child safety seats: Recalled
models; how to correctly install a child safety seat; what seat is right for
your child; as well as local child safety seat inspection sites. The site
offers crash tests and rollover ratings for each vehicle the agency tests. A
downloadable brochure on how to choose a safer car also offers good buying
Research covering many aspects of auto safety, from distracted driving to
pedestrian safety, can also be accessed, but the summary is usually all a
novice can handle. If the site defeats you or you'd rather talk to a human
being, NHTSA has a Vehicle Safety Hotline open between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m.
Eastern Standard Time, Monday through Friday (1-888-327-4236).
How We Benefit
IIHS is unhampered by government regulation and mandates. It is concerned
primarily with the same goals as NHTSA—reducing deaths and injuries from
highway crashes. But it is also interested in reducing property loss, as
indicated by its widely covered bumper tests. Media coverage of these tests
keeps the pressure on automakers to design better bumpers.
The Institute also researches the highway environment to discover ways to cut
down on fender benders as well as severe crashes. It has devoted a lot of
research to whiplash injuries, which were often derided as fraudulent injuries
in the past, but which the Institute says can become lifelong, painful
injuries. The Institute championed red light and speed cameras as a way to
tame our roadways and is now studying roundabouts as a way to keep traffic
moving and circumvent intersection crashes.
Their web site is quite easy to navigate and offers crash test ratings for
front, side and rear impacts as well as bumper tests. Click on Vehicle Ratings
at the top of the web page and plug in the make or model you are researching
on the side bar. The page also lists the top safety picks by IIHS in each
segment and explains the methods behind those picks. There is a listing on
this site as well as on the NHTSA site of all vehicles that are currently
equipped with Electronic Stability Control.
Click on Consumer Brochures and Videos to access Injury, collision and theft
losses for your vehicle segment. The vehicles are ranked by color codes and
show how often your choice is stolen or involved in a collision. Click on
Research & Statistics, then click on "show topic list" and a list pops up
including airbag, bumpers, collisions with animals, etc. Click on a topic and
read through the research or brochures that pop up. The Status Report
Newsletter on the top of the web page also makes good background reading on a
variety of subjects.