Humanetics, the only crash test dummy maker in the United States, has started producing overweight dummies as more Americans grow obese.
A major chunk of the American population is overweight, and the country's health agencies are spending millions of dollars each year to control the problem.
Humanetics previously produced crash test dummies that weighed about 167 pounds or about 76 kilograms.
To address the issue of car crashes involving obese people, Humanetics started producing dummies that weigh 270 pounds or just over 122 kg.
The latest dummies are said to have a body mass index (BMI) of 35. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) consider a person with a BMI of 30 or more "obese."
Chris O'Connor, CEO of Humanetics, reveals that obese people have a higher risk of dying if involved in a car crash. According to a recent study from the University of California Berkeley's Safe Transportation and Research Education Center (SafeTREC), obese people are 78 percent more likely to die in a crash compared to people with normal weight.
O'Connor states that an obese person has a lot of mass in their midsection and rear, which makes their seating position different from that of a normal individual. He also suggests that the risk of dying doubles for obese females. Current safety features, such as air bags and seatbelts, are mostly designed for a lightweight person and may not work as effectively for an obese person.
Overweight dummies will help Humanetics understand the safety needs of obese drivers. The dummies are said to cost about $500,000 each and may help the company develop security features aimed at obese drivers. The dummies are still in development and have a number of sensors that can provide accurate information.
"The newest dummies can have over 130 channels of information," says O' Connor. "The amount of data is up four or five times."
Crash test dummies have saved many lives by providing invaluable data to car companies regarding the improvements needed in their cars' safety features.