August 22, 2005

NHTSA suspends offset crash-test proposal

Washington, D.C. – The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has terminated immediate rulemaking efforts to add a high-speed offset frontal crash test to its current occupant protection requirements, citing the prospect of unintended safety consequences.

Agency testing has suggested that some manufacturers are building more rigid front ends in order to perform well in the offset test, which is currently used by the European Union, Australia, Japan and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in the United States.

All use an offset test at speeds between 56 and 64 kilometers per hour – about 35-40 mph. An offset test engages only a portion of the vehicle front when striking the crash barrier.

NHTSA research has shown that cars and light trucks, including sport utility vehicles, built to pass the offset test may actually inflict greater injury to occupants when they strike another vehicle head-on.

Under the current federal occupant protection standard, manufacturers must adequately protect occupants in a full frontal crash test. NHTSA said additional research and data analysis are needed before the agency can make an informed decision regarding the value of an offset test.

The agency continues to be concerned about the large number of lower extremity injuries associated with frontal offset crashes – an estimated 85,000 annually – and is continuing to research ways to reduce those numbers without compromising safety in other types of collisions.

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