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Secretary Ray LaHood More Stars, Safer Cars Press Conference

Good morning.  Thank you for joining us.

For three decades, American consumers have relied on NHTSA’s five-star safety ratings to help them choose the safest car.  Today, I’m pleased to announce that we’re raising the bar on safety – subjecting automobiles to more rigorous crash tests, addressing grade inflation by making it far more difficult for a vehicle to earn five-star status, and helping car-shoppers navigate a crowded marketplace with trustworthy and objective safety analysis.  More stars means safer cars.

These changes were a long time coming – and they’re an affirmation of the five-star safety program’s overwhelming success.  Since NHTSA put this system in place in 1979, cars have continued getting safer – a fact reflected in America’s decreasing highway fatalities and injuries, which reached a record low during 2009 and have kept falling into 2010.

The problem is that more and more vehicles have received four- and five-star ratings.  Shoppers are having a harder time differentiating vehicles with truly exceptional safety performance.  We also want automakers to push the frontier of safety even further – to think about safety measures like crash avoidance and prevention in addition to crash worthiness.  So, the new five-star safety ratings system we’re unveiling today is designed specifically to tackle these emerging challenges. 

For example, it will rely on data from female test dummies -- for the first time ever -- so we can learn the effects of crashes on women, not just men.  It will include an additional side impact test.  And it will recognize and reward vehicles with advanced safety technologies like: electronic stability control, lane departure warnings, and forward collision warning systems.

Ultimately, for the first time, this new five-star system will combine all of a car’s safety ratings into an overall vehicle score.  And the Department of Transportation and NHTSA will make that score available to the public at www.safercar.gov.

Look, the bottom line is this: In President Obama’s administration and this Department of Transportation, safety will always be our top priority.  So, we’ll keep reminding Americans to click it or get a ticket.  We’ll keep reminding Americans that if they’re over the limit, they’ll be under arrest.  We’ll keep reminding Americans that the safest way to get from one place to another is to hang up and drive.  We’ll keep holding America’s automobiles to the highest standards.  And we’ll keep giving American consumers the tools to help them choose the safest vehicles to purchase and drive.

With that, I’m delighted to turn over the podium to NHTSA Administrator David Strickland, who will share more of the details.  Thank you very much.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010