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NHTSA's 5-star car safety ratings may need updating

Illinois drivers may be familiar with the 5-star car safety rating system that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration uses. Back in the 1990s, the agency developed this system out of its New Car Assessment Program, which started the tradition of crash testing vehicles in a laboratory with crash dummies. No doubt the rating system has had a positive impact on the auto industry, but some believe that it needs to be updated to suit changing times.

This was the conclusion of one individual, a member of the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, who released a report in October 2019 saying that the U.S. is falling behind other countries in the thoroughness of its crash testing. Europe, for example, performs four times as many crash tests as the U.S. does in order to rate vehicle safety.

The NHTSA has promised that it would add crash test procedures for new vehicle safety tech like pedestrian detection and that it would produce crash dummies that would more accurately represent drivers and passengers. Yet neither step has been taken. Some say that further steps must be taken since drivers don't rely entirely on safety ratings when buying vehicles. One is to make the real-life data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System more accessible to drivers.

One thing that crash tests cannot tell, after all, is how vehicle safety tech can actually contribute to one of the worst trends in driving today: distracted driving. Those who are involved in a crash with a distracted driver may pursue a personal injury lawsuit, but they may wish to have a lawyer conduct an assessment of it under the state's comparative negligence law. If the case is strong, the lawyer may bring in investigators to build it up and then proceed to negotiations.

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