Since 1978 the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or the NHTSA has been crash-testing vehicles under controlled circumstances in America.
Based on three different tests, this allows them the authority to give ratings in the form of a star system based upon their findings for individual makes and models.
American auto manufacturers safety efforts are in large part due to the results of these tests.
The National Organization for Automotive Safety & Victims’ Aid or OSA assess the overall safety of the highest selling makes and models in Japan.
Their formula is complicated and like the NHTSA based on a star system, the more stars the safer the vehicle.
The results are overseen by the Minister of Transport and rely on scores from three individual tests to rate overall safety, full-width frontal, offset and side impact.
Full-Width Frontal tests
A Full Width Frontal test is designed to test restraint effectiveness and is used by both of the above testing agencies.
Test dummies are belted into the front and back seat of a car that is run directly into a concrete barrier at 35 miles an hour.
The extent of the damage to the test dummies bodies is then collected and evaluated. Although the damage to the vehicle itself is not even noted, this test serves its purpose to test seat belt and airbag reliability.
Offset Frontal Impact Tests
The Offset Frontal Impact test is designed to test the integrity of the vehicle’s structure in an accident.
Again test dummies are belted in both front and back seats and the car is run into concrete barrier (35 mph for NHTSA and 40 mph for OSA).
Only this time the barrier is offset so that the edge of the concrete hits the car right in the center of its grill.
This test not only the restraint and airbag effectiveness, but the damage to the vehicle as well.
Side Impact tests
The Side Impact tests are done differently than the other two because they utilize a dolly to test the results of impact directly into the side on of the cabin and while hitting the cabin at an angle.
The dolly varies in weight from 3015 lbs (NHTSA) to 2090 lbs (OSA).
Like the other two tests, this one finds test dummies belted into both front and back and measures the damage to them in addition to the reaction of restraints as the heavy weight is plowed into the cabin at 38.5 mph (NHTSA) and 31 mph (OSA).
So there you have it, a quick rundown of the procedures used to test vehicles for their safety.
It is important to utilize this research when purchasing a vehicle, much better to know that your car will keep you safe when you most need it to.