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Support for Consumer Information on Vehicle Crash Performance

Sept. 7, 2006

Support for Consumer Information on Vehicle Crash Performance

Statement of Joan Claybrook, President, Public Citizen, and Judith Lee Stone, President, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates)

 Thanks to the enactment last year of major federal transportation safety legislation, consumers buying a new vehicle will get what they need – government crash test results and ratings – where they need it – on the vehicle at the point of sale – when they need it – while shopping for a new car. 

 Due to the leadership of Senator Mike DeWine (R-Ohio), Senator John D. Rockefeller IV (D-WV) and a broad-based coalition of safety, consumer and insurance supporters, the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU), adopted in 2005, required that new passenger vehicles sold in America display a label with basic crash test performance information derived from government testing under the ongoing New Car Assessment Program (NCAP). Today, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued a final rule governing details of this program.

 Consumers have long clamored for easy-to-understand safety information that will help them purchase a safer vehicle for themselves and their families. In polls on auto safety issues conducted for Advocates by Lou Harris, an overwhelmingly majority (84 percent in 2001) of consumers wanted results of government crash performance tests and ratings to appear on a window label placed on new vehicles in the showroom. Now that goal has been achieved, and American consumers will be able to determine at a glance from the star ratings how each new vehicle performed in crash tests and the vehicle’s rollover rating.

 While this is one giant step for the American consumer, additional strides remain to be taken to ensure that the government crash tests and rollover ratings conducted under NCAP will continue to provide consumers with relevant information that distinguishes the best performing vehicles from the pack in each category. If all vehicles receive the same or similar results, that is, the same number of stars, then the information will be of little comparative use to consumers. For this reason, it is incumbent on NHTSA to update, improve and expand the NCAP crash tests in order to ensure that, in the future, these crash test results will continue to provide consumers with valuable information for comparing the safety performance of new vehicles.

 Advocates and Public Citizen also urge auto manufacturers to provide crash test performance labels based on NCAP tests on new pickup trucks and urge NHTSA to require these labels under a pre-existing authority or Congress to direct them to do so.


Public Citizen is a national, nonprofit consumer advocacy organization.  For more information, please see www.citizen.org.

Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates) is a coalition of consumer, public health, medical, safety and insurance groups working together to make the nation’s roads and vehicles safer.  Learn more about Advocates at www.saferoads.org.