November 2, 2014
Crash Test Dummies Become Obese As Americans Get Bigger

Americans are getting bigger and so are crash test dummies. Humanetics, the world's largest producer of crash test dummies, has developed a new obese crash test dummy that has a Body Mass Index of 35 and weighs 273 pounds.

Chris O'Connor the CEO of Humanetics said that obese people are 78 percent more likely to die in a car crash compared to those within their ideal weight, according to a statistic given by the University of California-Berkeley's Safe Transportation and Research Education Center. O'Connor said that current air bags and seatbelts are not design for obese people.

"An obese person has more mass around (the) midsection and a larger rear which pushes them out of position. They sit further forward and the belt does not grasp the pelvis as easily."

Crash test dummies are used to test the impact of a crash in different situations. The vehicle with the crash test dummy is tested using various forces, movements, accelerations, and deflections in the event of a car crash.

According to the New York Daily News, 70 percent of Americans are overweight or obese, which is why safety devices must be redesigned in order to accommodate their weight.

O'Connor said that they are still testing a crash test dummy that was made in the 1980s. It weighs 170 pounds, and does not represent the weight of the general population today.

The new obese crash test dummies cost $500,000 each and they last forever. USA Today reports that with the new crash test dummies, auto creators will be able to come up with restraints and seat belts that are safer for the driver and the passengers.

Humanetics said that the new crash test dummies are not just heavier, they are taller as well.

"The dummy is a little taller because the population is now taller – but to be frank, it's all in the butt, thighs, and midsection because that's where the weight gain has occurred."

The producer said that the new line of crash test dummies will be available for sale next year. However, it is still unclear whether crash testers will use them.

Russ Rader of the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety said that they have a "whole family" of Humanetics dummies that they use for testing, but they may consider using the new obese dummies in the future.

Jennie Ecclestone, Manager of safety communications at General Motors, said that their company uses a crash test dummy that represents "a male in the 95th percentile."

"Our largest dummy is 233 pounds, and while that may not seem to encompass everyone, our testing is quite conservative and done in a way that can cover a larger audience than the weight number may suggest."

Humanetics also announced that they may release more diverse crash test dummies in the future, including a line for senior citizens and women.

[Image via Car Crushing]