The coveted crash test ratings for vehicles are in desperate need of an update, according to multiple auto safety groups.
The system hasn't been updated since 2010. Right now, 98% of all vehicles get four or five stars.
“It’s the equivalent of Halloween — everyone gets candy,” says Jason Levine with the Center for Auto Safety. “The idea is supposed to be separating between things that are safe and things that are really safe.”
Levine says the tests are too easy to pass and they don't help consumers understand the difference between cars.
Some recommendations include updating the ratings by testing new technology that helps drivers avoid crashes, like emergency automatic braking, and accounting for how passengers in the rear seats are impacted
Experts also recommend testing systems that help avoid hitting pedestrians. This type of testing already exists, it just hasn't been mandated in the U.S.
“NHSTA, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, has dragged its feet on renewing these ratings for almost a decade now,” Levine says. “They said they were going to update them in 2015. They didn't. They said they were going to update them in 2018 and they didn't. Here we are, we just saw a press release of NHSTA saying we'll do something in 2020 but they haven't even really explained what that is.”
Advocates also say there's a need to update crash test dummies to reflect changes we've seen in drivers, like weight, height and age.
Auto safety groups would like to see a silver star added for older drivers to better understand how a car might protect them in a crash.