New Car Assessment Program (NCAP)

The safety features present in a vehicle can have a large impact on occupant survivability in the event of a crash.

Provision of information on the relative safety of vehicles enables new car buyers to select vehicles that are safer. Provision of this information has also resulted in competition between motor manufacturers, leading to overall improvements in vehicle safety.

The New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) tests new cars and gives them a safety rating from one to five stars. A rating of one star means people in the car would have a higher chance of being injured or dying in a crash and a rating of five stars means people in the car would have a much lower chance of being injured or dying in a crash. NCAP is focused on the effects of various types of crashes on the people in the vehicle. The program uses crash testing (including crash test dummies) to find out what happens to the car and the people in it when it crashes. Tests are conducted at various speeds for a front-on crash, side impact crash and hitting a pole with the side of the car. Tests are also conducted to see what happens to pedestrians if they are hit by the car. A typical test set-up is shown in Related Images.

Tests are carried out assuming that the car crashes into another car of a similar size and weight which will not necessarily happen when driving on roads.

There are a number of vehicle rating systems (e.g. Australasian NCAP (ANCAP), European NCAP (EURO NCAP), Safer Car (US), Japan JNCAP, Korean KNCAP)

On all these websites car buyers can find out the safety ratings of cars. There are safety ratings for used cars too.

While NCAP tests do not specifically test individual safety features such whether placing airbags in the side pillar is more effective than placing them in the door (for example) the tests do show how effective various safety features are by measuring the effect on the crash test dummies. In 2008 a vehicle could only receive a five star ANCAP rating if it had Electronic Stability Control. This indicates that various safety features that are available now as additional items may become required safety features in the future.

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