Categorized | Opinion

We Need Fatter Dummies?

By David Peel

David PeelWhen crash test dummies were introduced over forty years ago, only about 15 percent of us were obese. Apparently, we have gained enough collective weight as a nation that we need heavier crash test dummies. In fact, the current statistics ranges from 30-40% of us are now obese. America leads the world often containing the highest percentage of obese people in the world.
As an injury attorney, I fully support crash testing of automobiles. Many changes have been made to vehicles and barriers as a result of these real world collisions.
Since so many drivers are now overweight, the first-ever adult obese crash test dummy was recently introduced. Weighing in at 273 lbs., and Body Mass Index (BMI) of 35, it is a big change indeed.
Changes that new testing will likely lead to are probably a decade down the road. This may be too late for many already. Some initial results of actual crash data are startling. People with a BMI between 30 and 40 are many, many times more likely to die in a car crash than fitter victims.
Sometimes improving protection for one group, like obese adults reduces protection for other populations. For instance, increasing air bags compression to deal with higher weight ranges might hurt shorter individuals or children.  Strengthening seat belts for heavier occupants might well increase chest injuries for the elderly osteoporotic bones.
In order to test cars in crash tests with realistic dummies, one must first test the dummies. To do this, they do the unseemly task of crashing human cadavers. A comparison of cadavers with dummies validates the crash injuries.
Obesity changes more than one might think. A seated obese person extends farther forward on the seat compared to a slimmer occupant.  Because this changes the seatbelt positioning, it is one of the many factors that must be considered.
A child dummy representing a 10-year-old child weighing more than 65 pounds was adopted several years ago.  This has been used to evaluate new safety requirements of child restraint systems, including car seats and boosters for that age and weight.
In the end, the more realistic the dummies the better the safety measures that are adopted. It’s really all of balancing act. We would save a lot of lives if we required roll cages and five-point harnesses, such as you see in a NASCAR vehicle. But it’s all a balancing act.
Peel seeks justice for those injured in car accidents, work place incidents, medical malpractice, and nursing homes. He often addresses churches, clubs and groups without charge. Peel may be reached through PeelLawFirm.com wherein other articles may be accessed.
— What do you think? Send Letters to the Editor to thomas.sellers@journalinc.com.

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