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Side Impact Crash Test Ratings: Side crash test ratings are conducted with a moving barrier is coated with material that replicates the forces and "give" found in the front of another vehicle. All side impact rated vehicles are hit by the same size barrier, so it is possible to compare all types of different vehicles with each other when evaluating the side crash protection ratings. These side crash tests replicate the forces in an intersection collision with 3,015 pound barrier moving at 38.5 mph into a stationary vehicle. IIn each of these tests, dummies that represent an average sized adult are put inside the driver and rear passenger seats with fastened seat belts.

Special instruments are able to calculate the force of impact to the crash test dummy's head, neck, chest, and pelvis. The side collision star ratings rate the chances of a serious chest injury for the driver, front seat passenger, and the rear seat passengers see table below. Head injury is measured,but not measured by the star rating, but instead with a head injury score ( if this score called a HIC is greater than 1,000 it is reported separately as a safety concern for consumers. A serious injury is defined as an injury that would require immediate hospitalization and could be life threatening.

What do the side impact tests really mean? The star ratings are designed to help consumers evaluate safety.

5 Stars = 5% or less chance of serious injury
4 Stars = 6% to 10% chance of serious injury
3 Stars = 11% to 20% chance of serious injury
2 Stars = 21% to 25% chance of serious injury
1 Star = 26% or greater chance of serious injury

These crash test ratings are based on the results of instruments that are able to measure the force of impact and how it affected the crash test dummy's head, neck, chest, pelvis, legs and feet. Frontal star ratings above rate the chance of a serious head and chest injury to the driver as well as the right front seat passenger. A serious injury is defined by the test as one requiring immediate hospitalization and may be life threatening. See Overview of Crash Test Ratings. Frontal Impact Crashes, Rollover Crash Ratings

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Crash Tests are based on Vehicle Weight and Class. NHTSA categorizes vehicles by class and "curb" weight. Curb weight represents the weight of a vehicle with standard equipment including the maximum capacity of fuel, oil, coolant, and air conditioning. Passenger cars are further subdivided as follows:
Passenger cars – mini (PC/Mi) (1,500-1,999 lbs. curb weight)
Passenger cars – light (PC/L) (2,000-2,499 lbs. curb weight)
Passenger cars – compact (PC/C) (2,500-2,999 lbs. curb weight)
Passenger cars – medium (PC/Me) (3,000-3,499 lbs. curb weight)
Passenger cars – heavy (PC/H) (3,500 lbs. and over curb weight.)
Sport utility vehicles (SUV)
Pickup trucks (PU)
Vans (VAN)

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