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New vehicle safety ratings to debut

By the CNN Wire Staff
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Ratings for 55 vehicles are being released Tuesday
  • The new system incorporates new standards
  • Female crash test dummies are being used for the first time
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Washington (CNN) -- The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration rolls out a new safety rating system Tuesday -- one with more rigorous standards.

"More stars equal safer cars," Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement.

"With our upgraded Five-Star Safety Ratings System, we're raising the bar on safety. Through new tests, better crash data, and higher standards, we are making the safety ratings tougher and more meaningful for consumers."

The safety ratings range from 1 to 5 stars, with 5 stars being the highest.

The agency will release on Tuesday the ratings for the first 2011-model-year vehicles evaluated under the new system -- 55 total: 24 passenger cars, 20 SUVs, two vans and nine pickups.

"For over 30 years, NHTSA's 5-star crash testing program has been the gold standard for consumers looking to buy the safest cars on the market for their families," NHTSA Administrator David Strickland said in July when the new system was announced.

"Now, this great program has gotten even better by making it easier to compare the safety performance of vehicles not only in terms of crash survivability, but in terms of avoiding crashes in the first place."

The new ratings will include an overall vehicle score, which combines the results of a frontal crash test, side crash tests and rollover resistance tests. For the first time, the test also will use female crash test dummies to similate issues that affect women.