DEERFIELD, Ill., Dec. 13 /PRNewswire/ -- Don't rely solely on those widely publicized star-based ratings for assessing the safety of your next auto purchase, say the editors of Consumers Digest. While car makers' use those star ratings extensively in auto ads, CD's staff joins other critics of the methodology, objectivity and sensibility of the tests conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). In "Crash Tests: What's Behind the Auto Safety Ratings," in the February issue of CD (on sale January 1), NHTSA is criticized for an out-of-date scheme in conducting its frontal-crash test program. IIHS is chided for being more concerned with testing vehicles to evaluate for potential for insurance claims rather than overall crashworthiness. Other methodology concerns include an inability to compare results of one vehicle to those of another in a different size/weight class; side-impact testing on NHTSA's part that isn't designed to evaluate injury to a car occupant's head; NHTSA's dependence on vehicle dimensions rather than actual test-driving performance to compute rollover ratings. Neither group's ratings consider how well a given vehicle can help motorists stop, steer or otherwise maintain control to avoid getting into accidents in the first place. Rich Dzierwa, CD's managing editor, points out how some experts contend the human factor is mistakenly omitted from the safety equation when only NHTSA's and IIHS' ratings are considered. The age/experience or height of the person behind the wheel, for example, needs to be taken into account in the purchase of an SUV to determine how "safe" it is to drive. Rusty Haight, director of the Collision Safety Institute, says "There are so many aspects of traffic safety that you can't just single out one aspect and say it's . . . the thing that is going to make (you) safest." Consumers Digest's editors express particular confusion over how these four- and five-star rating systems often don't assign any vehicle less than "3 stars." "With no significant variation in test results among comparable vehicles, the tests are virtually rendered moot," the article's author, CD auto expert Jim Gorzelany, said in the piece. The bottom line, the magazine reports, is that these crash tests should be taken with the proverbial grain of salt. They do indicate that today's vehicles perform better than ever before in crash tests, but they are far from perfect and, thus, should be viewed as components of a comprehensive vehicle safety evaluation. "Safety sells when it comes to automobiles," Dzierwa says. "But there's far more to consider when evaluating an automobile's safety than just counting the stars." Consumers Digest, launched in 1959, is designed to inform and educate readers so they can buy with confidence, no matter the product or service. The magazine is committed to providing practical advice, factual evaluations and specific recommendations, leading consumers to exceptional values in today's complex marketplace.
SOURCE Consumers Digest