Big changes are coming to the federal government’s 5-star crash-safety ratings; they’re the most significant updates since the creation of the consumer-friendly system more than 20 years ago. For the first time, life-saving crash-avoidance technologies will be fully incorporated into the ratings—giving buyers better safety information on vehicles. Vehicle occupants and pedestrians will also see important developments to their everyday safety.

The new rating system will be implemented in National Highway Traffic Safety Administration testing in 2018 and affect vehicles in the 2019 model year. All the enhancements to the system are integrated with a common theme of technology improving safety.

The second addition to the NHTSA 5-star rating is an oblique frontal crash test, addresses the most dangerous forms of frontal crashes. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has similar overlap frontal tests that are conducted because direct head-on impacts are less common in frontal collisions. The oblique test represents a crash scenario with an oncoming car that has drifted over the center-line.

NHTSA’s new testing that will be incorporated into the rating system also includes three elements: crash avoidance technologies, crashworthiness, and pedestrian protection.

As more auto manufacturers add new safety features, NHTSA has determined crash-avoidance technology will become so widely available that it should be included in new-car ratings by 2019.

Crashworthiness is a measure that rates survival and injuries suffered by occupants of a vehicle in the case of an accident. This protocol requires new crash test dummies for NHTSA. Going forward in 2018 testing, the new dummies will enable NHTSA to pinpoint areas of bodily harm suffered in car crashes through biofidelity sensors.

Pedestrian protection is the third element that will be added to the NHTSA rating system. This change represents in an effort to mitigate injuries for those outside of the car. In 2013, on average, a pedestrian was killed every two hours and injured every eight minutes in a traffic crash.

Consumer Reports applauds NHTSA for incorporating more data into the ratings, a step we have urged the agency to take for several years. These changes will make the 5-star safety ratings more challenging for automakers and more useful to consumers in determining which vehicles are truly the safest.