For many years, there have been federal crash tests and ratings.
Everyone is in favor of safer cars and trucks as long as it's done within reason. Of course, what was considered reasonable by one group -- say, the government -- is not always the vehicle manufacturer's idea of reasonable.
Then there's the wild card that's beyond government's testing. When the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety runs its own crash tests and releases its own conclusions, it usually makes both sides mad -- which probably means it's right on track.
But now, after a very long time with one set of rules for crash safety, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has changed the tests and the rules. For many vehicles, the starred ratings are changing even when the vehicles are the same.
That's simply not fair.
Something's not right when rules are rewritten as the game is being played. Suddenly, the vehicle that passed one set of performance standards and got rated at four or five stars is tested with different standards and gets a different score.
NHTSA is using different crashes and different crash dummies. So the results have changed, too.
Someone is fudging on this test.
I have no problem with changing testing procedures. If the dummies are better, and if they can simulate more realistic crashes, great. But NHTSA should use the new testing procedures only for new vehicles that were engineered with these tests in mind. Let the existing vehicles use the older testing procedures that they were designed to take.
True, there would be apples and oranges.
At a minimum, the government could disclose both the old and new results, with an explanation of the change.
Safety is important; nobody would be against safer vehicles. And even given all the safety standards today, we can continue to improve vehicle and occupant safety.
But everyone who buys a car or truck should be assured that everything is measured fairly for all vehicles in a class.
If you want to change the rules, do it far enough in advance that all vehicles are judged against the new standard. Don't give some vehicles two different crash ratings, depending on the vehicles' life cycle.
If the government wants to use new testing procedures, it should wait.
It's just not a fair way to play the game.