The government crash test program that rates all new cars, trucks, and SUVs on a one-star to five-star scale is getting an upgrade.  The new program, which is set to begin in 2010, will incorporate new front-end crash tests and a test that slams a pole into the side of the vehicle, simulating collission with a tree.  Additionally, teh ratings will take into account technologies like electronic stability control, lane departure, and forward collision warning systems that are optional in most vehicles.

Leaders at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration believe that the new testing will leave fewer and fewer vehicles with five-star ratings.  That doesn’t necessarily mean that cars will be any less safe in 2010, just that consumers will be better able to judge which cars are truly elite.