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American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

American Government


National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
April 11, 1997

Wednesday, April 11, 1997
NHTSA 21-97
Contact:  Tim Hurd
Tel. No. (202) 366-9550

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) today released the first group of side crash test results for cars, initiating a new program of information for car buyers. The results are for model year 1997 cars.

"Model Year 1997 is the first year that all new cars must pass a minimum side impact crash test. This additional, higher-speed crash test gives consumers more safety data to guide them in their purchases. In combination with the existing frontal New Car Assessment Program, consumers will now have relative safety information on the two most common injury-causing crash events -- frontal and side impacts," said NHTSA administrator Ricardo Martinez, M.D.

Included are test results for 17 passenger cars: the Honda Civic four-door, Saturn SL four-door, Chevrolet Cavalier two-door, Ford Escort four-door, Honda Accord four- door, Mazda 626 four-door, Pontiac Grand Am four-door, Toyota Corolla four-door, Chevrolet Camaro two-door, Chevrolet Lumina four-door, Chevrolet Malibu four-door, Dodge Intrepid four-door, Dodge Stratus four-door, Ford Taurus four-door, Ford Thunderbird two-door, Toyota Camry four-door and Ford Crown Victoria four-door. In the attached tables, the safety information is provided from both the frontal and side NCAP tests.

The federal safety agency said the side crash used to test these passenger cars simulates a typical intersection collision between two vehicles. In the tests, forces are measured on two crash dummies when a moving, deformable barrier is angled into the side of a car at 38.5 mph.

The 38.5 mph speed of the deformable barrier is 5 mph faster than the speed prescribed for compliance with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 214, "Side Impact Protection." The crash tests are conducted at the higher speed to demonstrate differences that are more apparent at 38.5 mph than at 33.5 mph. The test results will be presented in "star" format - one to five stars, with five stars being the best score - to make the technical crash results easy for consumers to understand.

Crash-test dummies -- designed specifically to measure human-like responses in the side direction -- are placed in the driver position and in the rear seat position behind the driver. As in the frontal test, the two dummies are secured with all available restraints. Instruments measure the force of impact to the dummy's chest and pelvis. The chest data, which indicate the chance of life-threatening injury, are signified in a single rating reflected by the number of stars. Pelvic injury also is measured. While pelvic injury is rarely life-threatening, it can be disabling. If a high likelihood of pelvic injury occurs in the lateral test, it will be noted by an asterisk. In reviewing the front and lateral star ratings, keep in mind that, in real world crashes, vehicles are twice as likely to be involved in severe frontal crashes as in severe side crashes.

Consumers can request test results and additional information for both the frontal impact NCAP ratings and the side impact NCAP ratings by calling the agency's toll-free Auto Safety Hotline at (800) 424-9393, or (202) 366-0123 in the Washington area. Information is also available through the NHTSA home page on the Internet World Wide Web at http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov.

A video news release will be transmitted by Daily Business Satellite at 1:30 to 2 p.m. Eastern April 11. Coordinates: Galaxy 4, Transponder 14, Downlink frequency, 3980 Mhz; Audio, 6.2 and 6.8. It will be transmitted again at 2:30 to 3 p.m. Eastern April 14. Coordinates: Galaxy 4, Transponder 22; Downlink frequency, 4140 Mhz; Audio, 6.2 and 6.8.

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