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Traffic fatalities linked to outdated crash test dummies: Part I

Crash test dummies are iconic. These representative figures have inspired at least one band name, countless pop culture references and a few are even housed in the Smithsonian. It's sometimes easy to forget that these dummies also have a functional purpose.

Crash test dummies are essentially used to determine potential human cost in certain kinds of accidents and the crash worthiness of various vehicle models. However, recent evidence suggests that they are not being used effectively in the fight to reduce the number of individuals killed every year on America's roads and highways.

Currently, approximately 35,000 Americans die in motor vehicle accidents each year. This statistic puzzles safety advocates who work diligently to ensure that vehicles are equipped with safety features designed to protect vehicle occupants in many types of crashes. How can it be, they ask, that so many Americans continue to die in crashes that should be survivable?

Recent evidence suggests that outdated crash test dummies may be partially to blame for the disconnect between survivability numbers in crash test labs and the actual annual death toll tied to motor vehicle crashes. Unfortunately, the news is not positive.

Crash test dummies do not accurately represent the vast majority of humans who are involved in accidents. Until recently, manufacturers were not even required to use dummies designed to be representative of female drivers and passengers. In addition, certain age groups among youth were not represented in crash test dummy form until recently either.

When dummies do not accurately represent drivers and passengers in crash tests, the survivability data becomes skewed. In essence, vehicles are most often perceived to be safer than they really are, because they have only been outfitted for safety with a fragment of the population in mind. What impact does this disconnect ultimately have in practical terms? Please check back in later this week as we continue our discussion.

Source: Claims Journal, "Outdated Crash Test Dummies Blamed for Continued Auto Fatalities," Denise Johnson, Dec. 18, 2012

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