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History and importance of the crash-test dummy

Frequent topics discussed in our Seattle Car Accident Attorneys Blog include new studies and motor vehicle features designed to lessen the risks of dangerous car accidents. Various research projects have made way for numerous safety features to be added to cars in the past several years, and a recent New York Times report delved into just how these studies are performed.

Most people in Seattle are familiar with commercials that show crash-test dummies, and in fact, this is how much safety testing is done. The news report discussed the interesting history of the crash-test dummy. Apparently, before the dummy was invented in 1949, cadavers, animals and human volunteers were used for crash-testing.

The first crash-test dummy was actually not used for automobile testing at all. In 1949, an Air Force surgeon developed a dummy when studying "physiology of rapid deceleration" during a plane crash. The surgeon wanted a lifelike model in order to achieve accurate results, so he requested a dummy made out of plaster casts of actual pilots.

It wasn't until 1965 that the first crash-test dummy was used for motor vehicle testing. But Vince and Larry style dummies, of TV-commercial fame, were third-generation crash-dummies invented in 1980s.

The rest, as they say, is history. Crash-test dummies have been, and continue to be, vital in the development of safety features and standards. Everything from steering columns to air bags was developed with the assistance of crash-test dummies.

However, in very rare cases researchers do utilize human drivers, namely to study how a human driver reacts to various situations just prior to a crash.

Source: New York Times, "Who Made That Crash-Test Dummy?" Hilary Greenbaum and Dana Rubinstein, May 18, 2012

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