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NHTSA's car safety rating system may need changing

North Carolina residents who rely on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's five-star rating system to determine if a vehicle is safe may be misled. A report released in October 2019 states that the federal government is lagging behind other countries in its crash testing.

For some background, the NHTSA's five-star safety rating system developed in the 1990s from the New Car Assessment Program. This program, initiated in the 1970s, began the tradition of crash testing vehicles in a laboratory with crash dummies. Interestingly, the author of the report was a leader in the creation of the New Car Assessment Program.

The report shows that the U.S. does not perform even a quarter of the number of tests that Europe performs before rating vehicle safety. Certain promises that the NHTSA has made to increase the number of tests have yet to be fulfilled. The NHTSA also intends to rate the effectiveness of vehicle safety features like pedestrian detection and to use crash dummies that are more accurately designed.

However, crash test results alone are insufficient. Drivers want to hear about the on-the-road experiences that a vehicle has been through, and fortunately, there is a database that can help in this regard: the Fatality Analysis Reporting System. The data is understandable to few beyond the experts, so making it more accessible is crucial.

Such data gets into how car accidents occur, which is important when determining fault and filing a claim. Distracted, drowsy and drunk driving are just a few common examples of negligent driving. Those who have been injured at the hands of a negligent driver may be eligible for compensation, but under North Carolina law, they must not be even 1% at fault for the crash. Otherwise, they are barred from recovery. Victims may want to schedule a legal evaluation before anything else.

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John McCabe wrote "The Investigation and Analysis of Personal Injury Cases" in the best-selling book Personal Injury Practice in North Carolina. This is the book that other lawyers follow in handling personal injury cases.

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