Crash-Test Dummies Don't Look the Way They Used To

They're getting fatter
By Polly Davis Doig,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 30, 2014 4:14 PM CDT
As Americans Get Fatter, So Do Crash-Test Dummies
A "family" of test dummies, in this 2014 file photo, at Dorel Juvenile Group in Columbus, Ind., allows technicians to study impact data for various age ranges.   (AP Photo/The Republic, Andrew Laker)

Your average crash-test dummy, it seems, weighs 167 pounds. But a lot of Americans, as you might have noticed, weigh considerably more than that. That disparity raises safety issues rather than health issues, reports UPI, and there's a sobering statistic to back that up, as per CNN: "Obese people are 78% more likely to die in a crash," says Chris O'Connor, CEO of Humanetics, which is planet Earth's No. 1 dummy manufacturer. "The reason is the way we get fat. We get fat in our middle range. And we get out of position in a typical seat." So to better study the way larger people fare in car accidents, old Vince and Larry are packing on the pounds—one Humanetics prototype clocks in at around 270 pounds with a BMI of 35.

But these dummies are pretty sharp, notes CNN: At up to $500,000 a pop and with some "130 channels of information," O'Connor says the amount of data is four or five times greater than in previous years. There's also a new kid on the block, and his name is THOR (Test device for Human Occupant Restraint), which Dr. Joel Stitzel, director of the Center for Injury Biomechanics calls "the future of dummy development" for average-sized occupants. But the industry's future probably relies more on computer modelling than smashing a Caddy into the wall with a dummy strapped inside. "Auto manufacturers are looking to develop virtual scenarios," says Stitzel. "It allows manufacturers to see things that dummies can't tell them." (Click to read about how obesity affects women's sex lives.)

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