Crash Test Dummies Are Getting Fat

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Humanetics Dummy

Crash test dummies are designed to mimic real people so there’s a new dummy available that’s put on a few pounds to account for a population that’s doing the same thing in real life.

Humanetics has a huge line of dummies, or anthropomorphic test devices, to cover men, women, children, and even babies, with their latest dummy designed based on an increasingly fatter population. The obese dummy weighs in at 273 pounds which is 106 pounds more than its traditional counterpart. He’s also grown 5″ taller.

They determined the need for this type of dummy with some fairly startling numbers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 34.9% of people are obese. This means there is a large percentage of people out there who aren’t sitting in their seats the same way as standard crash test dummies predict.

Since they have a different center of gravity, how their bodies react in a crash is different than those who are not obese. Humanetics President and CEO Chris O’Connor was quoted in Detroit Free Press saying, “It was important to put out a piece of test equipment that auto companies and safety suppliers can use to decide what the best way is to restrain an obese person, since so many obese people are driving. It’s not just weight. It’s the question of girth at the center area.”

His statements are backed up by a study conducted by the University of California-Berkeley in 2013 that showed obese drivers as 78% more likely to die in car crashes. Those kinds of numbers make creating a dummy to keep these people safe a real necessity.

Despite being larger, the new dummies still cost the same as standard dummies at $500,000 a pop. This is expensive but they’re designed to be used for decades so one obese dummy could be used in the development of countless vehicles and end up saving many lives.

What’s unclear is if any automakers or safety organizations will actually be buying the latest Humanetics dummies. Currently, neither Ford, GM, nor Chrysler is planning on buying an obese dummy. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has said that they definitely don’t plan to do tests with the new dummies right now because they can’t be certain there’s a real benefit while the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration hasn’t ruled it out, but isn’t opting in right now either.

It’s a wait and see game that might be leaving obese drivers at a disadvantage despite the availability of a dummy that could save their lives.