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The problem with crash test dummies

Crash test dummies have served an essential role in automobile safety. Their popularity has also led to animated depictions and the name of a famous rock band.

They are also in need of upgrades. According to a Government Accountability Office report, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration should rethink crash test dummies that provide better and more accurate data for more types of people.

Troubling findings

An examination of public funds reveals that the current line of dummies woefully underrepresents females, elderly drivers/passengers, heavier people, and children. Front and side impact crash tests are not providing enough data to address the dangers of those and other demographics. Current models used lack sensors on lower legs, a common injury for women.

Sadly, awareness of the problem goes back decades. The increased risk to women and the elderly has been an ongoing problem without any plan to address the risks and limitations that properly manufactured dummies can provide. A 2013 NHTSA analyzed crash data covering 1975 to 2010, revealing that women, in particular, sitting in the front row, had a 17 percent greater risk of death than men.

Over time, the gap began to close, yet the problem remains. Adult dummies simulate mid-size males, small females, and children, providing data on crashes and airbag deployment. However, data for heavier and older people are underrepresented, and a more significant chance of severe injuries post-collision.

The highest standards of safety are paramount when it comes to motor vehicle operation. Ignoring specific demographics carries catastrophic consequences when injuries are caused by negligence, not just by drivers but those in the business of ensuring safety in motor vehicles.

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