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Crash-test dummies gain weight to save lives

Crash-test dummies gain weight to save lives

Some dummies used in vehicle crash tests are going to put on 100 pounds to help researchers determine how to make cars safer for heavier Americans

Car safety is a weighty problem, so crash-test dummies are packing on pounds to help protect heavier Americans in automobile crashes.

The average dummy used in car crash tests currently weighs about 167 pound with the equivalent of a healthy human body mass-to-fat ratio. But Humanetics in Michigan, the maker of U.S dummies, is now designing dummies that will weigh 270 pounds with a body mass index placing them in the morbidly obese category. The change is critical to determine how best to improve safety for larger Americans in car crashes when most protective features are made for thinner people, say company officials. Moderately obese people face a 21 percent higher risk of death in crashes, while those morbidly obese are 56 percent more likely to die, research has found.

Heavier dummies could help lead to development of “more robust” restraint systems life seat belts and airbags, notes a spokesman for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which tests vehicles for safety. Such changes would be an important improvement in a nation where 70 percent of people are now overweight or obese. But it’s not only the strain of excess weight that can cause problems for safety features. Body shape, with excess weight often concentrated in the midsection, also creates a poorer, less safe, fit for current seat belts.

The chubbier dummies should be ready to hit the wall by the end of the year, said Humanetics CEO Chris O’Conner.

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