The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, better known in its abbreviated form as the NHTSA, is, according to the administration’s website, “responsible for reducing deaths, injuries, and economic losses from motor vehicle crashes.”
While the NHTSA also performs investigations on safety failures in automobiles and researches ways to make driving a safer, improved experience for everyone, its main job is to award safety ratings to new cars after putting the new cars through a battery of safety tests. Manufacturers search for the elusive five-star rating, the highest rating given out by the NHTSA.
The NHTSA compiles a car’s Overall Vehicle Score from its ratings in the frontal crash, side crash, and rollover tests. The manufacturer waits for the results from these tests like an Olympic figure skater waiting for the judges to hold up their signs. And when the results read “five stars out of five,”— it’s gold medals all around for the manufacturer.
The NHTSA is a prestigious organization and commands a lot of respect from the average car buyer. When looking to buy a new or used car, it’s a good idea to check out the safety ratings first. The NHTSA makes that process very easy; you can look up a car’s Overall Vehicle Score and other safety information here.
Notice that the NHTSA has only been using the Overall Vehicle Score since 2011. Therefore, even though the 2010 Ford Fusion got five-star ratings almost across the board, it did not receive an overall five-star rating. However, the Fusion continues to receive high safety ratings and has now received the all-important five-star Overall Vehicle Score two years in a row.