Crash Test Dummies: Here’s What The Obesity Epidemic Is Doing To Them

Yes, even dummies are recognizing the ongoing obesity epidemic. Dummies as in crash test dummies. No, not the musical group that sang “Mmm mmm mmm mmm”…but the mannequins that are the unsung heroes of automobile safety. They sit in cars during safety testing while the cars hurtle against walls and barriers. For years, standard dummies have been 5-foot-9 and 170 pounds. But as CBS News reports, Humanetics, the leading maker of crash test dummies, will be making a heavier (by 100 pounds) and taller (by a few inches) dummy to better represent Americans.
Why is it necessary to make dummies look more like real Americans? Well, in the case of car crashes, size matters. Add worse car crash injuries to the growing list of problems associated with obesity, such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, arthritis, depression, etc. A study, published in the Emergency Medicine Journal and conducted by Thomas M. Rice from the University of California, Berkeley’s Safe Transportation and Research Education Center (SafeTREC) and Motao Zhu from the West Virginia University’s Injury Control Research Center, found obese drivers to be up to 78% more likely to die in a car crash compared to normal-weight drivers, based on accident data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System. Moreover, among obese individuals, the higher the body mass index (BMI) the higher the likelihood of death, with a BMI of 30 to 34.9 associated with a 21% increase in fatality, 35 and 39.9 with a 51% increase, and above 40 with an 81% increase.
Several phenomena could be driving (pun intended) these findings. One is that better overall physical health can help you survive a car crash, while physical ailments can weaken your body’s ability to handle and recover from trauma and injuries. Secondly, body weight and size can potentially hamper rescue and medical procedures such as removal from the car, imaging and surgery. Third, body size can change the dynamics of car crashes. In a study published in the journal Obesity, Richard W. Kent and Jason L. Forman from the University of Virginia and Ola Bostrom from Autoliv Research in Sweden, subjected obese and non-obese cadavers to different frontal car crashes and found that the obese cadavers moved around differently during the crashes. Obese cadavers moved forward more before being

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