The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has recently released a new side-impact standard for automobiles.

The new standard will increase the side-impact safety requirements for all passenger vehicles. NHTSA predicts that the increase in the standard will save hundreds of lives each year. For your information, there are two important changes to the new side-impact crash standard. The new rule requires automobile manufacturers to provide protection for side-impact collisions with stationary objects.

The old standard simply required car-to-car crashes. The new standard requires a dynamic pole test to recreate crashes with stationary objects such as trees and telephone poles. Additionally, the new standard will require manufacturers to test vehicles with crash test dummies that reflect the overall general population.

Previously, the standard only required testing with crash test dummies that approximate the size of an average male. The new standard will require testing with smaller, female-size crash test dummies. That is something which has been badly needed for years and the automobile industry knew it.

While the new standard does increase the safety requirements, safety groups, such as Public Citizen, believe the standard could have been further enhanced.

The car-to-car crash testing uses a deformable barrier that is representative of a mid-size car. With the number of light trucks and SUVs on the highway, the testing could have been greatly improved by the use of higher barriers that represent these larger vehicles. Additionally, these standards should include testing with crash test dummies that represent small children. Certainly children will be riding in all kinds of motor vehicles as passengers.

In any event, the changes made are an important enhancement of this safety standard. Side-impact crashes account for 28% of all automobile fatalities in the United States and that is most significant.

The NHTSA estimate indicates that the new standard will save over 300 lives and prevent almost 400 serious injuries per year. Hopefully, their projections will be accurate. The standard will be phased in, starting in 2009. It took NHTSA a long time to act, but at least the regulatory agency finally did.


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