This summary presents an introduction to the safety rating systems in use internationally. Given the wide variety of systems currently in use, their different methodologies and the volume of valuable information which they provide, this summary seeks to provide a gateway to the websites which explain these systems in appropriate detail.
What are safety ratings?
Safety rating systems present impartial information on aspects of traffic system safety. Safety ratings in use today are objective tools for the assessment and improvement of aspects of the safety of vehicles, the road network, work-related road safety and international safety performance. Safety ratings in use either predict safety outcomes for given designs or provide a retrospective assessment based on crash data.
Who are they for?
The impartial and objective information provided by safety rating systems is designed for use by policymakers, employers, professionals and practitioners in the establishment and implementation of road safety strategies as well as fleet buyers, car buyers and road users.
Why use safety ratings?
The level of ambition associated with current European targets and safer system approaches and goals such as Sustainable Safety and Vision Zero requires greater attention than before to the provision of a safer network, safer vehicles, better emergency care systems and compliance of users with key safety rules as well as meaningful shared responsibility and partnerships on the part of system providers. Safety ratings today address such needs and provide a basis on which to assess both results that are desired as well as the changes needed to provide them. They can be used as road safety interventions, road safety policy and strategy monitoring tools and for setting specific intermediate or sub-targets for road safety strategies around which stakeholders can focus activity and resource.
Safety ratings in use?
A wide variety of safety rating systems are currently in use or under development providing an impartial means of assessing the relative performance of:
- New vehicles in crash tests (e.g. Euro NCAP, ANCAP, USNCAP, JNCAP)
- The safety performance of ‘on the road’ vehicles in crashes (e.g. Folksam car safety rating)
- Different parts of the road network through risk-mapping and road protection scores (e.g. EuroRAP, AusRAP (iRAP and usRAP are under development)
- National road safety performance in relation to other countries (e.g. ETSC PIN)
- The safety quality of commercial road transport operations (e.g. the Swedish Q3 rating)
- Safety equipment (e.g. for child restraints NPACS and crash helmets currently being developed)
Effectiveness of safety ratings?
High quality data is a prerequisite for effective rating systems. Rating systems are most useful when the tests used in them are realistic; where the tests and analysis take account of possible factors which might bias the results; where the publication or website explains clearly what the particular rating means and where the results are disseminated very widely while, at the same time, being targeted at specific users.
There are several issues regarding presentation of results.
- Since safety rating systems need to be built on and promote objective safety data, it is important that the ‘messenger’ is actually independent as well as seen to independent of national governmental and industry concerns.Most rating systems have achieved this with broad international consortiums of motoring and consumer organisations, governments from several countries and independent experts (See the EuroRAP and EuroNCAP partnerships)
- The assessment procedures need to be transparent
- Given the variety of safety rating systems which exist, each publication needs to explain clearly what the particular safety rating in question means and draws attention to any limitations
- Given the wide audience for results, these need to be disseminated widely but targeted at the same time at the road using public, fleet buyers and decision makers in general