One of two agencies to perform crash tests on new vehicles, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) ensures that every new vehicle that comes to market meets minimum safety standards and also issues ratings so that consumers know which cars are the safest.
In late 2010, NHTSA raised the safety standards that they used for their crash tests for cars starting in the 2011 model year. Developments like these are important; too many models were scoring too highly under the old standards. So NHTSA went back to the drawing board and came up with more stringent standards for existing tests, added a new side-impact crash test, and also a new overall rating so it's easier to see how different models stack up against each other.
The goal of these changes? To make new cars safer for all and it's a move that is already succeeding. Take for example the case of the Ford Fusion. Under the old standards, the 2010 Ford got five stars across the board on almost all of the front and side crash tests. But with the introduction of higher standards and the new side-crash tests, those scores fell to four and three star ratings with an overall score of four stars. For 2013, when Ford redesigned the Fusion, they had a chance to improve the Fusion's crash resistance and the new 2013 Fusion jumped back up to a five-star overall rating — the highest possible.
The NHTSA has been hard at work testing more and more cars under these new standards and we want to highlight the models that have been tested so far in 2013 (through March) and got full five-star overall ratings. For those consumers who put a large priority on safety, such as families or cars for younger drivers, this list is a great starting point.