The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration developed its 5-star vehicle safety rating system in the 1990s from an earlier program called the New Car Assessment Program. The rating system continues to guide many prospective car buyers in California and across the U.S. and to encourage automakers in the building of safer vehicles, but the agency itself sees that updates will be necessary.

It has stated that it would add new test procedures as well as new ratings that take into account the emerging forms of safety technology like automatic emergency braking and pedestrian detection. It has also promised to design new crash test dummies. However, these changes have yet to materialize, and the reasons may be lack of funding.

A report published in October 2019 by a former leader in the development of the New Car Assessment Program has criticized the agency for lagging behind other countries in its crash testing. The author states that Europe performs four times the number of crash tests that the NHTSA does before rating its vehicles. Obviously, then, a vehicle rated 4 or 5 by the NHTSA may not be as safe as one thinks. However, drivers need to know how vehicles protect their occupants in actual collisions. Some say data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System may help fill this need.

Such data can also explain how motor vehicle crashes come about. From speeding and tailgating to distracted driving, there are numerous negligent actions that contribute to a crash. Some are harder to prove than others, so victims of a negligent driver who intend to file a claim may want a lawyer by their side. Most personal injury lawyers have a network of crash investigators and other parties who can strengthen a case and increase the chances of a fair settlement.