Crash-Test Dummies Get Bigger To Reflect Obese American Population

Oct 29, 2014 03:10 PM EDT | Tim Healey

As if we needed further proof that American waistlines have expanded, even crash-test dummy maker Humanetics is redesigning its product to better reflect reality.

The dummy maker told CNN that obese people are 78 percent more likely to die in a crash, so it has designed a dummy that weighs 273 pounds and has what would be a body mass index of 35 if it were a real human. A human who is overweight can increase his or her risk of injury by sitting in the wrong seat position.

As we age, we also become more at risk for injury.  People older than 50 have a 20 percent greater chance of being hurt, while those past the age of 80 face a 40 percent greater risk.

Humanetics is also working on a prototype dummy that will better reflect the physiology of an older person, with the hope that it will be ready next year.

On the other hand, crash-test dummies themselves may be becoming a thing of the past, as sophisticated computer modeling may be able to replicate various body types and give researchers information that dummies can't. Not to mention that while the virtual dummies cost more now, once the price comes down, they will cost far less than the current cost of up to $500,000 per dummy.

Either way, the ballooning waistlines of our current population and the aging Baby Boomer generation will pose new issues and challenges for automakers as they work to keep their cars safe.

We already know about most of the health risks associated with obesity, such as increased risk of stroke, heart attack and other health problems. Now we can add sitting in the wrong spot in the driver or passenger seat to the list.

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