Crash dummies pile on the pounds

New-Atlas reports that a Michigan-based trauma surgeon and crash-test-dummy manufacturer are hoping to bring car safety up to date with models that are a more accurate representation of today’s older and overweight drivers.

‘The typical patient today is overweight or obese – they’re the rule rather than the exception,’ said trauma surgeon Stewart Wang, an expert in crash-related injuries who heads the University of Michigan’s International Center of Automotive Medicine (ICAM). He had noticed changes in the patterns of car injuries years ago and what caught his attention was the fact that some of them were due to design flaws that arose from using dummies that looked ‘nothing like my patients [or] the population these days.’

His observations, together with data about human bodies based on the analysis of real-world crashes, helped pave the way for the development of Humanetic’s (the dummy-making company) latest crash test models: a 273-pound (124kg) obese dummy with a body mass Index (BMI) of 35 that is 103 pounds (46kg) heavier than the traditional standard model, and an elderly dummy with a BMI of 29.

Based on a 70-year-old overweight woman, the latter’s torso and chest have been substantially redesigned to reflect the sag that comes with age – according to Wang, as the structure of the chest changes from one’s 20s to 80s, the risk of chest injury increases fifteen fold. It also comes with a newly designed organ system concept to allow more precise measurements of internal injuries sustained in car accidents.

‘When you select a car and you look at the five-star crash rating or the insurance institute rating scheme, you assume that it’s the same for all drivers but in fact it may not be because your body size may react differently from the restraints, airbag, seat belt or even to the seat itself. As a result, it might be less safe for you,’ explained Humanetics CEO Christopher O’Connor in an interview with a Detroit TV station.