The National Highway Traffic Safety Admin. says its new 5-star safety ratings system will take effect in the ’11 model year, one year later than planned.

“The delay will give manufacturers another year to prepare for what are the most significant changes since the ratings program began in 1979,” NHTSA says in a statement.

The agency also says the year-long delay will allow consumers more time to familiarize themselves with the changed ratings system, which will use a single score to reflect a particular vehicle’s frontal, side and rollover testing performance.

Under parameters of the new system, NHTSA also will begin using a small female crash-test dummy to better represent the effects of car crashes on women and small children.

A pole test to simulate what occurs when a car wraps around a tree is another new addition to NHTSA’s methodology.

When NHTSA announced the new 5-star program in July, it was met with lukewarm response by industry safety advocates.

“There was an incredible opportunity here for NHTSA to clean up one of the most important safety programs in America, and they did not go far enough,” Jack Gilles, Consumer Federation of America’s director-public affairs, told Ward’s at the time.

Gilles had hoped to see NHTSA develop a way to compare how one manufacturer’s vehicle performs in context to models that are direct competitors.