23444516 – auto accident involving two cars on a city street

Did you know the original test dummies used by safety experts were created more than 60 years ago? Sierra Engineering Co., under contract for the United States Air Force, created the first dummy in 1949. It was used to test ejection seats in airplanes. It was not until 1977 that General Motors developed dummies for standardized testing of automobiles.

Just as vehicles have evolved, so have the dummies, but the change is due to something you may never have thought about.

As Americans Gain Weight, So Do Crash Test Dummies

Crash test dummies are used to measure the effects of real-world crash situations. For years, the standard dummy was built to be 5-feet-9-inches tall and 170 pounds. But according to recent news reports, as the waistlines of Americans enlarge, so must the crash test dummies if they are going to represent the effects of car accidents accurately.

Humanetics, the leading crash test dummy producer, is making new dummies 100 pounds heavier and a few inches taller to better reflect the average size of an American driver or passenger.

An Edmonds article notes that recent studies show that Body Mass Index, or BMI, matters when it comes to injury and death in crashes. Your BMI is a measurement of body fat in relation to your weight and height, and studies have shown that occupants with a BMI between 35 and 40 are at greater risk, some 21 percent to 51 percent more likely, to die in an auto accident compared with those with a lower BMI.

Seeing that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) points out that in every state in the U.S., 20 percent of all adults are considered obese, you can begin to understand why there is a growing safety concern for drivers and passengers who are overweight. There is one bit of good news for Colorado. The CDC notes that Colorado is one of only four states where the obesity rate is greater than 20 percent, but less than 25 percent. The other states have higher obesity rates — in some instances, much higher.

Why Passenger Size Is a Factor in Vehicle Safety

While overweight vehicle passengers are at greater risk in a crash, researchers note that morbidly obese persons, those with a BMI more than 40, run the greatest risk of dying in an accident; they are 56 percent more likely to die following a crash. And when it came to men and women, obese women were far more likely to lose their life in an accident. Why does weight play such a key role in safety?

Researchers say part of the problem is that seatbelts don’t fit properly, so safety is compromised in the event of an accident. In addition, many overweight passengers find it uncomfortable to fasten their seatbelts at all.

There’s also the fact that an obese person typically has health issues, such as heart disease, sleep apnea, diabetes, and other maladies. These health issues can lead to an unexpected health emergency, sometimes while the person is driving. Also, injuries are harder for an obese person to overcome since their overall health is not good. Regardless of your size, this is an appropriate time to reinforce the need for a seatbelt use in Colorado regardless of your size. If you are within the obese range, there are some safety tips:

  • Make sure your seatbelt fits tightly across your shoulder. It also needs to be tight and low across your lap.
  • If you have significant thickness around your waist, place the lap portion of the belt underneath the soft tissue, not over it.
  • Some car makers do offer a seatbelt extender, so check with the automaker if you need an extender to be buckled in safely.

If you are obese and looking for a vehicle, experts recommend looking at vehicles that have what they call “crush space” between the seat and the steering column. This space helps absorb the force of a crash and keeps obese drivers from being more susceptible to auto accident injuries.

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