Despite the fact that plenty of tools, including crash tests and safety features inside vehicles, have improved over the past several decades, car accidents continue to be a leading cause of deaths for people in the United States.
In fact, 2015 represented the biggest increase in traffic deaths over the past 50 years. In Ohio this year alone, we’ve so far seen 106 fatal crashes statewide. By comparison, 2016 saw 982 total fatal crashes in our state.
But those numbers could be much bigger if it weren’t for crash tests.
Crash tests have long been a way for the government and safety regulators to analyze the potential safety of vehicles. Over time, however, crash tests have evolved to include different sizes and shapes for the crash test dummies as our population changes — including models that replicate older-age drivers and obese ones — to determine relevant safety ratings for vehicles.
The Differences in Crash Test Ratings
Crash tests are one of the most important ways that technology is being used to help prevent vehicle accidents and understand injury types. More than 2.35 million people each year are injured in vehicle accidents in the United States, and many of them in accidents involving negligence. Accidents also can be caused by recalled equipment, such as the faulty parking brakes for 2016 and 2017 Toyota Prius models.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) each conduct crash tests as a way to determine injury risks for passengers and drivers. Their tests are actually quite different, but the primary goal is to assess the safety features offered by a vehicle.
The NHTSA runs tests for rollover, side, and front crashes. A car will be rated between one and five stars based on the crash test results. The NHTSA also has incorporated other crash test elements, too, such as crash avoidance features that have the most potential, injury assessments, and more enhanced side-impact crash tests.
IIHS, on the other hand, runs crash tests for side impacts and frontal offset impacts. Their results are classified by saying that for frontal crash tests, “acceptable” means that passengers are at least 33 percent less likely to die in a crash when compared with a car rated as “poor.” For frontal crash tests, those occupants in a car classified as “good” were 46 percent less likely to die in a crash in comparison with cars rated as “poor.”
The History of Crash Testing
The first crash test dummies were the most life-like dummies across all of regulation history because they were real individuals. Humans volunteered for crash tests in the 1950s, managed by an Air Force flight sergeant after he determined that fighter pilots were dying more frequently in vehicle crashes than in plane crashes.
After he analyzed results from real dummies as well as real humans, he came up with several different features in cars, including an improved bumper design, dashboards that had energy-absorbing padding and doors with safety locks.
The first crash test dummy was referred to as Sierra Sam and developed in the 1940s. From that point forward, it was several decades before advancements were made in the world of crash testing. In 1971, GM came up with the Hybrid 1, which was the first of several types of modern crash test dummies. It was more capable of producing standard results, but it was challenging to replicate how actual humans were impacted in a crash.
The most popular dummy that is still used today by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is referred to as the Hybrid III. It was originally put together in the 1970s and weighs 173 pounds and is 5 feet 9 inches tall. A new crash test dummy is also in development. This one is known as Thor.
This more sophisticated model has numerous sensors to identify all kinds of information that actually happens to a person’s body in a crash. This crash test dummy is still in development. However, new researchers have identified that one of the downsides of the hybrid versions of crash test dummies is that they do not adequately reflect the sizes and shapes of many different Americans.
That’s why crash test dummies are getting a makeover in order to appropriately measure injuries in vehicle accidents.
Changing Population Calls for New Dummy Types
Two new crash dummies are now being used in these critical vehicle analyses. One is based on an overweight 70-year-old woman and the other is an obese dummy that weighs 273 pounds. More than 6,000 computerized scans were analyzed from a national database to determine the averages for these new crash test dummies.
The population in the United States is getting older, but the population is also getting more obese as well. Differences in these body types could lead to different injuries.
Individuals who are obese, for example, are much more likely to suffer lower extremity injuries than those who are not overweight. Drivers involved in accidents like this may be spending up to $4 billion a year on medical bills. This is one of the reasons researchers are looking to learn more about how these crash test dummies actually perform in simulated accidents.
The reason that an older dummy was included is because the shape of the chest changes over the course of time. This means that the rate of chest injuries can increase by up to 15 fold.
The re-designed chest on the elderly crash test dummy has a sagging feature to more accurately reflect older individuals. Elderly drivers all too frequently sustain chest wall injuries because of the shapes of their chests. Advanced age makes these victims extremely likely to die as a result of these injuries.
What to Do if You’ve Been in an Accident
Individuals hurt in vehicle accidents may have different types of injuries and damages based on their size and shape. Learning that someone else’s negligent behavior caused the accident may be a devastating discovery that could prompt the injured victim to pursue a personal injury claim. If you have already been hurt, you need to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney at Plevin & Gallucci as soon as possible.
In the past, we’ve waived attorneys’ fees to pursue drunk drivers who injured or killed Northeast Ohioans on New Year’s Eve. Our settlements and verdicts include a $775,000 result in a fatal truck accident case, as well as a $93,000 result for a woman involved in a low-speed motor vehicle accident with injuries in which the insurance company finally acknowledged the true value of the case.
Contact us today for a free consultation. For attorneys in Ohio, we also offer expert co-counsel in personal injury, product liability, medical malpractice, and workers’ compensation claims practice areas.