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Federal Regulators Announce Stricter Car Safety Ratings

More than 32,000 people die every year in car accidents, according to statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. And in the first six months of 2015, the NHTSA noted a “troubling increase” of more than 8% in fatalities over those reported the previous year. U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, who oversees the NHTSA, said the federal government planned to “redouble our efforts on safety” in response to these figures.

One area where the NHTSA has taken immediate action is with respect to vehicle safety ratings. Since the 1970s, federal regulators have performed crash tests on new cars sold in the United States and assigned ratings of between one and five “stars” based on performance and available safety features. Officially known as the New Car Safety Program, these star ratings provide consumers with valuable information before deciding what vehicle to purchase.

On December 8, the NHTSA released a series of proposed changes to the New Car Safety Program, which the agency said would “strengthen” the ratings system. Among other things, the NHTSA plans to use a new type of crash test dummy which will help provide “improved data on the effects a crash is likely to have on the human body.” Additional tests will measure a car’s abilities to avoid crashes, protect rear-seat occupants, and even minimize injuries to pedestrians.

Ultimately, the idea is to encourage car manufacturers to add these additional safety features in order to receive a perfect five-star rating. Currently, the NHTSA says about 90 percent of cars receive five-star ratings. These vehicles will not be reevaluated under the new standards, the NHTSA said, but going forward manufacturers must pay more attention to safety if they want to receive five-star ratings on their newer models.

The new standards will not take effect for some time. The NHTSA is currently soliciting public comments on its proposed changes through February 2016. After reviewing these comments, the NHTSA will issue final regulations sometime next year. The NHTSA said car manufacturers will likely begin implementing any new safety standards beginning with their 2019 model year.

Even a Five-Star Rating Does Not Guarantee Safety

But even when a car manufacturer complies with government safety standards and receives a “perfect” rating, there may still be defects in the design or production of a vehicle which leads to an accident that seriously injures a driver, passenger, or other individuals. When that happens, it is important you work with an experienced Tennessee product liability attorney who can review your case and help determine if the manufacturer may be at fault. Remember, a car accident can leave you with ongoing medical problems, as well as significant financial losses. If a product manufacturer’s negligence is even partially responsible for your situation, you have every right to seek compensation.

If you live in the Clinton or Knoxville areas and would like to speak with a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible, contact the offices of Fox, Farley, Willis & Burnette, Attorneys at Law.

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