The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) has had the same five-star safety rating system in place for decades. This program, created to make cars safer for the public, is long overdue for improvements, and seeing how there have been vast technological and engineering advances since NCAP was created, it only makes sense that there should be updates.
In today’s blog, we’ll take a closer look at the research upon which the safety rating program is based, and the updates the NHTSA plans to implement.
What is NCAP?
NCAP stands for New Car Assessment Program, the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration’s “premier consumer information program for evaluating vehicle safety, tests vehicle performance in various crash scenarios and provides an objective rating on a five-star scale to inform consumers of a vehicle’s safety performance.” These ratings are meant to decrease the occurrence of car accidents, and lessen the occurrence and severity of injuries from any accidents that do happen.
Joan Claybrook, who was the NHTSA’s administrator in 1979 during the Carter administration, created the NCAP, though she credits a fellow engineer for the structure of the program. It was then that they decided to avoid formal regulations, and simply give their ratings to the public themselves.
Now, after four decades, the program is being updated for modern vehicle safety requirements, including recommendations for certain driver-assistance technologies, and testing of those new driver-assistance technologies as well as those already in place.
What are the new NCAP updates?
Since the current NCAP standards haven’t been updated in so long, automakers have gotten used to meeting those standards despite how outdated they are. The NHTSA is proposing several updates to its five-star rating safety program:
- Recommending four new driver-assistance technologies: lane-keeping support, pedestrian automatic emergency braking, blind spot detection and blind spot intervention.
- Strengthening the current testing procedures and performance criteria for the driver-assistance technologies already included in NCAP.
- Establishing a 10-year roadmap for future NCAP updates.
- Requesting comments on ways to develop a meaningful ratings system for driver-assistance technologies.
- Considering the potential addition of emerging vehicle technologies related to driver distraction, alcohol detection, seat belt interlocks, intelligent speed assist, driver monitoring systems, and rear seat child reminder assist.
- Discussing ways to provide a crash avoidance rating on the window sticker (Monroney label) for new and used vehicles.
While the proposed improvements will not only make the program more useful, they will also be taking a large step in keeping pace with the fast progress of innovation in vehicle technology and safety. Dr. Steven Cliff, NHTSA’s Deputy Administrator, states that “for the first time ever, NCAP includes technology recommendations not only for drivers and passengers but for road users outside the vehicle, like pedestrians. The proposal also seeks comment and a novel approach to tie technological change to reducing driver behaviors that contribute to many crashes, injuries and fatalities.”
Are we ready for driver-assisted technology?
One of the recommendations for the NCAP is driver assistance technologies, which are becoming more and more common in our vehicles. It makes sense for the program to include regulations and requirements for these technologies.
However, the results of research into driver-assistance tools and software has proven inconclusive at best. The New York Times reveals that in 2021 the NHTSA began requiring manufacturers to report and track “crashes involving cars and trucks that use advanced driver-assistance technology.” Unfortunately, while there is active testing on these technologies, the NHTSA has failed to collect sufficient data that would clearly show researchers whether these technological advancements are beneficial or detrimental to those involved in crashes. That is because “automakers were allowed to redact descriptions of what happened during the accidents, an option that Tesla as well as Ford and others used routinely, making it harder to interpret the data.”
In light of this, perhaps the NCAP recommending driver-assistance technologies be installed in new vehicles seems somewhat premature. Further research into the safety of these technologies would be beneficial to the future safety of automobiles, seeing as how in a span of 10 months, there were nearly 400 crashes reported in the United States involving cars using advanced driver-assistance technologies.
At Martin & Helms, we know the importance of vehicle safety regulations. Too often, we have had to represent clients who have been injured in car accidents; accidents that could have possibly been avoided if the safety regulation had been updated more regularly.
With the new updates to the NCAP, we hope to see fewer accidents on the road, fewer injuries, and fewer deaths. In the meantime, if you or a loved one have been injured in a car accident, contact our attorneys to schedule a free consultation. Our phone number is 256-539-1990 or you can fill out our contact form. We also have an office in Decatur, and proudly serve clients in Athens, Madison, and throughout North Alabama.
Choosing the right personal injury attorney is an important step in building a better future. You deserve a lawyer who works one-on-one with you, and who can develop a plan for you to move forward. When you choose Martin & Helms, you get Clay Martin and Tara Helms: experienced, compassionate counselors who put your best interests first. We invite you to read more about us.