Auto Safety Agency Pushing For Change

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration came under attack for a variety of missteps in 2015. The NHTSA is seen by some as a tool to shield negligent automakers, rather than as an agency designed to protect the driving public. At the very least, many consider the NHTSA to be ineffective and slow to respond to dangerous threats. Recently, the criticism has largely focused on the NHTSA’s response to defective ignition switches on GM vehicles and defective Takata air bags in a wide range of vehicles. The concerns raised by those safety debacles are not new, however. Perhaps in response to the wave of negative publicity, the NHTSA has announced a number of changes under consideration in 2016.

The NHTSA is pushing significant changes to the safety rating system for automobiles. Receiving a five-star safety rating will now require vehicles to incorporate crash avoidance systems and other technological improvements. Safety ratings will also include half-star grades to help consumers further differentiate the vehicles they choose. Safety tests will also incorporate updated crash test dummies to enhance the collection of data regarding collisions.

Leadership is also pushing for a more flexible approach to updating the crash rating system. Technology enhancements can change the face of auto safety very quickly. A system that takes months or years to adjust will always be hopelessly out of date. Under the current rules, the NHTSA has little chance to keep up with the auto industry. That hinders its ability to steer consumers toward the safest vehicles.

Source: The Car Connection, “New Tests, New Crash Dummies, And More Changes In Store At NHTSA,” by Richard Read, 31 December 2015

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