Joint Statement on Proposed Update of U.S. NCAP

  • March 3, 2022
150 150 Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety
CONTACT: Allison Kennedy / Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety / / 360-281-7033 (C)

Joint Statement on Proposed Update of U.S. New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)

Today the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released a proposal to update the U.S. New Car Assessment Program (NCAP).   Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates) and our safety partners have been calling for a comprehensive NCAP overhaul for nearly a decade including in a 2019 report marking the program’s 40th anniversary.

Also known as Stars on Cars or the “5-Star Safety Ratings program,” the intent of NCAP was to incentivize auto manufacturers to exceed minimum safety requirements by distributing information about new cars’ performance in safety testing conducted by the federal government.  Over the last near-half century, the program has not kept pace with changes to vehicle safety systems, resulting in a devolution of its usefulness.  The ease of attaining the highest five-star rating undermines the original goal of NCAP.

Cathy Chase, President, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates): “The alarming and unprecedented spike in crash deaths over the last two years demands a forceful response from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT).  Approximately 40,000 people being killed annually would be unimaginable in any other mode of transportation.  Achieving  zero traffic fatalities, a goal stated in the DOT’s National Roadway Safety Strategy (NRSS), requires leadership, vision and commitment.  Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety will be submitting comments to the proposal urging the DOT to exceed the directives in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (Pub. L. 117-58) and accomplish the provisions in the Five-Stars for Safe Cars Act (H.R. 6256, 116th Congress).  We would like to thank House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Commerce Chair Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) for sponsoring that legislation and House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-OR) for including it in the INVEST in America Act (H.R. 3684).”

Joan Claybrook, Former Administrator, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA): “Testing the crashworthiness of new cars and making the results public is an idea I championed as head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) during the Carter Administration.  Our early efforts drove a host of lifesaving vehicle safety improvements as manufacturers strove to exceed the minimum safety standards set by NCAP, but the U.S. lost its leadership position on this critical issue long ago.  All one has to do is compare U.S. NCAP to other NCAPs around the world to understand the differences and the opportunities for improvement.  While the DOT has signaled its intent to change the program for the better, the agency needs to be cutting edge.  Inexplicably, the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has blocked upgrading this innovative and effective safety program for many years without justification.  It is long past time for this bureaucratic review office to let NHTSA do its job to enhance consumer safety information.”

Jack Gillis, Executive Director, Consumer Federation of America: “The purchase of a new car is one of the most important and expensive decisions most American families will make, yet we can’t simply look at a vehicle and know how well it will protect our family.  That’s why it is imperative that the government thoroughly update the most valuable tool consumers have in buying a car, the NCAP program.  Since its inception in the early 80s, it has allowed consumers to vote with their dollars for safer cars, using the market to force carmakers to make improvements.  Today, however, with virtually every vehicle getting a 5-star rating, it desperately needs a revamping.  To overcome ‘starflation’ and give consumers the information they need to buy a car that protects both their families and pedestrians, NHTSA needs to add more precision to reporting crash test results so consumers can truly separate the lemons from the peaches.  In addition, NHTSA needs to provide information comparing the effectiveness of various automatic crash protection features in new vehicles.  Not giving consumers information they need to make safe choices will have deadly consequences.  On the other hand, providing comparative performance information will set the carmakers on a path to competing for the top safety ratings. It’s happening everywhere else, why not in the USA?”

Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety is an alliance of consumer, medical, public health, law enforcement and safety groups and insurance companies and agents working together to make America’s roads safer.  Advocates’ mission is the adoption of federal and state laws, policies and programs that prevent motor vehicle crashes, save lives, reduce injuries, and contain costs.