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NHTSA 04-07
Wednesday, March 7, 2007
Contact: Heather Hopkins
Telephone: (202) 366-9550

Automakers, Safety Advocates and Consumers Called on to Help Improve
Five-Star Safety Rating Program

Public Has Until April 10 to Comment on New Car Assessment Program

The U.S. Department of Transportation today called on automakers, safety advocates and consumers to help the federal government develop a new and more effective five-star safety rating program used by many consumers when deciding which vehicles to buy.

Secretary Peters and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Administrator Nicole Nason today kicked off a day-long public meeting on proposed improvements to the New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) used to develop the government’s five-star safety ratings, and urged the public to offer suggestions on ways to improve the program by April 10, 2007.

The Secretary asked for ideas on the best way to improve the current front, side and rollover tests conducted by NCAP. She also asked for advice on whether the Department’s proposed enhancements, including adding upper leg injuries to its frontal crash tests and head injuries to its side crash tests, would raise the bar on safety. She also asked for advice on the best way to include ratings for proven crash avoidance technologies such as electronic stability control, and those emerging ones like lane-departure and rear-collision avoidance.

“While we have made some strong and sweeping recommendations for strengthening this system, we know that we don't have a monopoly on good ideas. When it comes to saving lives and preventing injuries, there is always room for improvement” said Mary Peters, U.S. Secretary of Transportation. “Strengthening and improving the current five-star program will help us continue to give consumers the most up-to-date and useful information about the safety of the vehicles they are considering."

For close to 30 years the NCAP has been providing consumers with realistic and reliable information on the safety performance of vehicles sold in America Secretary Peters noted but, she added that vehicles tested 10, 20 and 30 years ago are vastly different than today’s improved fleet. As technology has reshaped vehicle performance and safety, it has also reshaped driving habits and the public’s expectations for staying safe on the road. “The time has come to rethink our approach to testing the safety of vehicles in this country,” said Peters.

“As more safety technologies appear in our vehicles, our programs and procedures must be flexible to accommodate those advancements,” said Administrator Nason. “These new innovations have the potential to save thousands of lives, and we must never become complacent when it comes to that.”

The public comment period for the proposed changes to the current NCAP program, which began in January 2007 when Secretary Peters visited the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, will close on April 10. NHTSA will begin to asses the comments and hopes to establish the proposed changes soon after.

For further information on the current NCAP program please go to www.safercar.gov.