Pole Test

Head-injury protection

A quarter of all serious and fatal accidents result from side-on collisions where one car runs into another or a car runs into a stationary object such as a tree, lampost, or bridge suport.

Many manufacturers now fit head-protecting airbags as standard to reduce the risk of injury in side impact. they are generally very effective at protecting against head and neck injury.

Euro NCAP introduced the 'pole' test in 2000 to assess the degree of protection offered.

The car is propelled sideways at 18mph (29kph) into a rigid pole. The pole is relatively narrow, and usually penetrates the side of the car deeply.

pole test image


If you are the driver in a crash where there is no head-protecting side airbag, your head may hit the pole hard enough to kill you. Typically a head-injury criterion (HIC) of 5,000 is possible, five times that which indicates the likelihood of serious brain injury.

In contrast, the head-injury criterion in crash tests with a head-protection airbag is typically 100 to 300. So a side-impact airbag with head protection makes this kind of crash survivable, despite its severity.

These devices are effective in a range of different accident types from hitting a static object at the roadside, such as a telegraph pole, to being hit by another vehicle where the bonnet enters the window at head height.

Euro NCAP awards a maximum of two additional points to a car model that passes the pole test.

When the pole test was introduced, the extra points available created the possibility of a five-star overall rating. The Renault Laguna, tested in March 2001, was the first model to achieve a five-star rating.

Pole-test Ratings


The result of the pole test is shown as a coloured star around the head of the side impact dummy that appears on the results pages.

Green star = Pass
Yellow star = Marginal performance
White star with red outline = Fail