WASHINGTON, July 8 (UPI) -- The U.S. Department of Transportation is introducing improved safety ratings for automobiles and better crash tests, Secretary Mary Peters announced Tuesday.
The changes include using female test dummies as well as male ones in crashes to show the effect on smaller bodies. A new test will simulate the effect of hitting a tree, and other frontal tests are being added.
The new tests will be introduced in 2010 along with a new safety rating that will combine results from frontal, side and rollover tests.
"Knowing how many horses a car engine has is important, but knowing how safe a car is before you even step into a dealership ought to be essential," Peters said. "We want to make sure consumers can easily take safety into consideration when choosing a new vehicle, along with price, fuel efficiency, size and the color they like best."
Peters said that under the new regulations buyers will also be told whether new crash-prevention electronics such as systems that warn when a vehicle is drifting from its lane are optional or standard equipment.