In Brief

Crash dummies fatten up to reflect obese Americans

Research suggests that morbidly obese drivers are 56 per cent more likely to die in a car crash

Dummies

Crash-test dummies are piling on the pounds to reflect the growing number of obese Americans.Dummies used to test seat belts, airbags and other safety features in cars are typically modelled on a person who weighs 11st 13lbs with a healthy body mass index (BMI).But US dummy producer Humanetics is designing new dummies based on a 19st 4lbs person, with a BMI of 35, considered morbidly obese.Chris O' Connor, CEO of Humanetics, says that safety features do not fit heavier people in the same way as thinner people.Researchers from the University at Buffalo and Erie County Medical Centre studied 150,000 road accidents in 2010 and found that moderately obese drivers were 21 per cent more likely to die in a car crash. This increased to 56 per cent for morbidly obese drivers."Typically you want someone in a very tight position with their rear against the back of the seat and the seat belt tight to the pelvis," O'Connor told ABC News. "An obese person has more mass around [their] midsection and a larger rear which pushes them out of position. They sit further forward and the belt does not grasp the pelvis as easily."According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there has been a "dramatic" increase in obesity in the US over the past 20 years. More than one third of adults are obese and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) predicts that three quarters of Americans will be overweight or obese by 2020.Russ Rader, a spokesman for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, said there was certainly a place for heavier crash-test dummies to help develop more robust features such as seat belts and airbags. But he added that all the vehicle safety improvements the institute has seen over the last couple of decades "are allowing people to walk away from crashes without serious injuries regardless of size".The heavier Humanetics dummies are expected to become widely available next year.

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