The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) has released a list of 55 vehicles that it plans to test using its new and even more demanding 5-star safety rating program. All 2011 model-year offerings, the initial group includes 24 passenger cars, 20 SUVs, 11 pickup trucks and two vans, from both domestic and foreign manufacturers.

In addition to adopting more rigorous direct testing criteria, NHTSA has expanded the scope of evaluation to provide consumers with important supplemental information about new crash-avoidance technologies like lane-departure and forward-collision-warning systems that each may offer. Equally important, vehicles that undergo this revised battery of 5-star testing will also receive a single overall safety score that allows potential buyers to make more meaningful head-to-head comparisons.

In commenting on the adoption of this tougher and more comprehensive approach to its ratings, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood noted that: "This new testing program significantly raises the safety bar for all vehicle manufacturers and will provide consumers with a great deal more safety information about the cars and trucks they want to buy."

"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," said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland. "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."

Results of NHTSA's initial round of 5-star testing -- as well as all future vehicle ratings -- will be posted on the agency's website. In addition to making it more difficult to achieve superior status, NHTSA also cautions that the changes in its testing regimen will make it impossible to directly compare the new results to any previous scores.

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