Safety ratings of new cars

Before you buy a new car, check the car’s crash test rating.

The New Car Safety Ratings provide car crash test results, indicating how safe vehicles are likely to be in the event of a crash.

Tested in independent laboratories, accident simulations are created relying on having a dummy driver and passenger aboard to provide a full picture of likely injuries in a crash.

New cars

Crash test programmes are run to assess car safety in the event of a serious crash. Overall safety ratings are awarded based on what would happen to passengers and pedestrians involved in serious front or side impacts.

The AA supports the independent international crash test study programmes - Australasian New Car Assessment Programme (ANCAP). This is also supported by the NZ Transport Agency (NZTA), Australian motoring clubs and state governments and the FIA Foundation.

ANCAP and Euro NCAP testing provides consumers with independent information on the level of safety provided by vehicles in the event of a serious crash. Dummies are used to facilitate the measurement of forces in a crash test. Data is then assessed and scores awarded.

What happens in a crash test

All crash tests are completed by independent specialist laboratories. In the tests, dummies are used to facilitate the scientific measurement of the various forces in the crash. The data gathered is then assessed, using internationally recognised protocols, and scores are determined for various parts of the crash test.

ANCAP will also award bonus points for other safety features such as seat belt reminders. The overall score is then translated into a star rating of between 1 to 5, with higher scores awarded more stars.

Four types of crash tests are completed.

Frontal offset test

The frontal offset test simulates colliding with another vehicle of similar mass travelling at the same speed.

In an ANCAP test 40% of the car on the driver's side makes contact with a crushable aluminium barrier at 64km/h.

The vehicle has two adult dummies in the front seat, the rear seat has an 18 month old child dummy and a three year old child dummy, both in appropriate child restraints.

Side impact test

The side impact test simulates two vehicles colliding at 90 degrees.

In an ANCAP test a 950kg trolley is run into the driver's side of a vehicle at 50 km/h. The trolley has a crushable aluminium face to simulate the front of another vehicle.

Pedestrian test

The pedestrian impact test simulates accidents in which a pedestrian is hit by an oncoming vehicle. These accidents represent about 15% of fatal crashes in Australia and New Zealand.

In an ANCAP test the pedestrian impact test is used to estimate head and leg injuries to pedestrians struck by a test vehicle at 40km/h.

Pole Test

The pole test simulates an accident in which a car collides with a fixed object such as a tree or pole.

Curtain airbags are particularly effective in preventing injury in this type of crash.

In an ANCAP test a car is propelled sideways at 29 km/h into a rigid steel pole, in line with the driver's head. The pole is relatively narrow, resulting in major penetration into the side of the car.

How safe is your next vehicle

ANCAP new car safety ratings are released quarterly. Be guided by the stars, the more stars the better. Occupants have twice the chance of being killed or seriously injured in an ANCAP 1 Star rated vehicle compared to an ANCAP 5 Star rated vehicle.

Safety features

It is important to assess you new vehicle for safety features.

Structural integrity – the structure of the vehicle will absorb and dissipate the crash energy. Safe vehicles will maintain their shape in the event of a crash. Elements inside the vehicle should not move excessively and injure passengers. Doors should remain closed during a crash, while being able to be opened post crash.

Electronic Stability Control – has various names which may vary depending on the manufacturer. It may be referred to as electronic stability programme, active stability or vehicle stability, but they all operate in the same way. Electronic stability control helps drivers control the vehicle in the event of sudden serving to avoid collisions.

Anti lock braking systems – prevent the wheels of a vehicle locking as brake pedal pressure is applied, usually in an emergency of within a short stopping distance. This gives the drive better control and helps prevents skidding and loss of traction.

Airbags – When deployed in the event of a crash airbags significantly reduce the chance of death or serious injury. For maximum safety drivers should look for front, side, curtain and knee airbags. Airbags deploy on impact and significantly reduce the impact during a crash.

Seatbelts– All occupants within a vehicle should be wearing retractable 3-point sash style seat belts with pre-tensioners. This helps deal with the impacts of forces in a crash. Lap belts are less effective. Audible seatbelt reminders are also valuable.

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