Legal Versus Consumer Requirements for Secondary Safety of Passenger Vehicles in Europe and the U.S. 2013-01-0121
In 1978, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) established the New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) and began rating vehicles for frontal impact safety for MY1979 with the purpose of providing information to the public so consumers could make better-informed decisions about their purchases. Manufacturers responded to the ratings by voluntarily improving the safety of their vehicles beyond the minimum Federal safety standards. In 1996, NHTSA added testing for side impact protection and more recently to assess the vehicle's rollover propensity.
After NHTSA's NCAP, other organizations have followed testing the passive safety performance of the vehicles and publishing the results to the customers with the intention of improving the protection given by the vehicles. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) started in 1995 with an offset frontal impact test and in 2002 with a side impact test using a mobile barrier that represents the typical SUV frontend. Also in 1995, IIHS started publishing results from a head-restraint geometry assessment that was complemented with a dynamic test in 2004. In 2009 the IIHS introduced the roof strength test protocol for rollover protection and in 2012 they introduced the small overlap crash test protocol.
In Europe, Euro NCAP started its testing program in 1997 with: a frontal offset test, a side impact test and pedestrian protection testing; these were complemented with a pole test in 2000. In 2008, Euro NCAP introduced whiplash testing and in 2009 a new rating system.
In this paper, the current European and U.S. legal requirements are presented and compared with the major consumer testing programs: Euro NCAP, NCAP and IIHS.