A guide to car crash testing

A guide to the new European car crash test system and how it can help you make better choices when buying your next new car. Choices that might just help to keep you alive in the event of a road traffic accident. Euro NCAP (New Car Assessment Program) have been crash testing cars for 15 years in order to make our roads and driving safer. To keep car manufacturers on their toes, Euro NCAP have recently made changes to the way they assess the safety of new cars. Introducing the new Euro NCAP protocol.   


What Is Euro NCAP?
NCAP stands for New Car Assessment Program. It’s an independent European organisation which performs car crash tests in order to check vehicle safety. For 15 years (since 1997) they have been crash testing every new vehicle which has gone on sale in Europe!

And Has The Scheme Worked?

Over the past 15 years, Euro NCAP has continued to evolve and tailored their crash test criteria to ensure manufacturers keep striving to make their cars as safe as possible. In 1997 car manufacturers found it almost impossible to attain the elusive 5 star crash test rating. By 2008 a total of 97% of cars tested managed to obtain either 4 or 5 stars which means everyone is safer on the roads as a result.

How Does The Scheme Operate?

Every year, all the new cars due to go on sale within Europe are subjected to a series of crash tests based on the criteria in force at the time. The image below shows the new crash test protocol for 2012.
The score for every vehicle is calculated using the results obtained from 3 different impact tests designed to measure the level of protection provided for adults, children and pedestrians in typical crash scenarios.

Adult Protection

Front ODB: Designed to test the effects of frontal impact, the cars are driven into an offset deformable barrier at 40 mph. Side MDB: The side impact test measures the damage caused to adult front seat occupants after ramming the side of the car with a mobile deformable barrier at 31 mph. Side Pole: Designed to mimic the car hitting a tree or telegraph pole, the side of the car is rammed into a pole (25 cm diameter) at 18 mph. Whiplash: The new test examines the size and positioning of the seat and head restraint during the other crash tests. The end result is this…
Using sophisticated crash test dummies, they develop a detailed understanding of how safe various parts of the adult body would be during each type of crash.

Child Protection


  • Front ODB

  • Side MDB

  • CRS

  • Vehicle

Pedestrian Protection


  • Adult Head

  • Child Head

  • Upper Leg

  • Lower Leg
For more information on all the tests and how they’re conducted, check out the Euro NCAP Test Procedures. The score for each test is expressed as a percentage. So, if a car achieves a score of 92% for child protection that means it offers a level of child safety that’s very near to the maximum possible given the current advancement of technology.

Safety Assist

Finally, the new safety assist category scores vehicles based on whether the offer safety equipment including;

  • Seatbelt Reminder Systems

  • Speed Limitation Devices

  • Electronic Stability Control (ESC)
Each vehicle’s final score is than assigned a rating of up to five stars. The coveted five star rating is the maximum level of safety deemed possible using today’s technology.

What Is The New Test Protocol?

In addition to adding new elements to the test, the new rules for 2012 set the pass marks higher and shift the overall weighting applied to certain tests.
New Tests: A new whiplash assessment has been added to the adult protection category while a whole new category (safety assist) has been added.
Higher Pass Marks: Today a vehicle must reach an 80% score on adult protection (before it was 70), 75% on child protection (instead of 70) and 60% on pedestrian protection (instead of 25).
New Weighting: The results of the Adult and Children passenger tests have traditionally carried more weight in the overall test results. As a result, the manufacturers became rather good at these tests. However, as recent as 2007 up to 76% of vehicles tested only managed 2 out of 4 stars (why not 5 stars?) in the pedestrian test. As a result, Euro NCAP is now turning its beady eye on pedestrian protection, providing it with a greater “weight” in the final test results.

How Will These Changes Affect Me?

The changes will ensure that road safety continues to improve for drivers, passengers and pedestrians. However, as a result of the constant criteria evolution, it’s impossible to reliably compare this year’s test results with last year’s. For example, if a five star car from 2011 was tested today under the new criteria, it would be unlikely to achieve the same score as before.
Or, as NCAP states “what is good for 5 stars today may not be good enough in 2012″ – The five star bar rises every year. So when you come to buy a new car, be careful when a company advertises a five star Euro NCAP test rating. If you want to compare test results, make sure that they were conducted in the same year. And given the increasing complexity of safety systems provided by manufacturers in the Safety Assist category, it’s more important than ever to investigate the scores obtained in each test by each car on your shortlist. For the latest safety ratings news from Euro NCAP, check out AA Crash Test News.

Note: Sponsored Post on behalf of Euro NCAP.
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