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Crash test dummies not decreasing car accident fatality rate

Last year, an estimated 35,000 people were killed in car accidents in the U.S. Despite safety features and regulations for auto manufacturers, fatal car accidents still continue at an unusually high rate. A study by the co-founder of the Center for Injury Research is trying to figure out why vehicle safety features are not reducing fatal car accidents.

The study found that many car accident fatalities occur because of current auto safety tests using a crash test dummy that does not accurately represent a majority of American drivers. The study found that if vehicles used different sized crash test dummies, auto manufacturers would know what safety features and improvements to make to decrease fatalities caused by car accidents.

Crash test dummies were based off volunteer Navy soldiers roughly 45 years ago, according to the study. The volunteer sailors were supposed to hold their head and neck as stiff as they could to resist movement during a crash. Airbags and other safety features in vehicles were modeled after these test results.

The study says that this is not an accurate test for current vehicle safety standards. Most Americans are not the same shape and size of Navy sailors and most people in a car accident do not hold their head and neck stiff during an accident so the movements recorded during the test are not helpful for current auto manufacturers.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety said that the size and shape of crash test dummies should be revised to represent the majority of American drivers and passengers. They said that current crash test dummies already model the average male and female as well as children. However, it appears that more work needs to be done to make sure the crash tests are properly identifying the risks of fatal injuries during car accidents before car accident rates truly see a significant decline.

Source: Claims Journal, "Outdated Crash Test Dummies Blamed for Continued Auto Fatalities," Denise Johnson, Dec. 18, 2012

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