January 28, 2017

One of the few popular music ensembles to have play-figures created in their image, Canadian band Crash Test Dummies are perhaps best remembered today for their plodding durge-like 1993 hit Unghgh, Uhrrr, Uhhrh, Eurgh.

Less well known is the fact that the anatomically accurate mannequins that are used to work out exactly how horrendously human bodies will be lacerated, crushed and punctured in RTAs are actually named after the CTDs, as they are fondly known by their loyal legion of sadly misguided fans (loyal even after they released an album whose instrumentation consisted exclusively of a cacophonous sounds wrung from a Ptarmigan).

Like the rest of us, the various members of this particular musical ensemble haven’t remained entirely immune since their heyday to piling on the odd pound here and there; whereas the mutilation mannequins to whom they’ve lent their name have remained as svelte as the day their use was first introduced. But that’s not necessarily such a good thing, as it turns out, as it sounds.

No indeed! Experts in America have suddenly realised that using healthy-weight dummies to test what happens to average Americans in high-speed vehicle impacts (and basing car safety standards thereupon) makes about as much sense as using Twiggy as the template for Little Mix’s fetish gear.

Americans, it seems (and, to an increasing extent, Brits, who traditionally follow wherever our wayward Transatlantic cousins lead), have been chubbing up quite spectacularly for several decades now – to the point where concerned hockey moms now openly worry on social media whether Steve ‘Dreamboat’ Bannon has been taking the time to eat proper meals while he’s busy running the country through a dummy of his own named Donald J Trump.

The point being that a blubbery mountain of unsavoury alt-right lard like Bannon will be crumpled, torn and pulped in radically different ways to, say, ever youthful icon James Dean. Now Michigan University trauma surgeon Stewie Wang, who heads the influential International Center of Automotive Medicines, argues that potentially fatal flaws in contemporary car design result from the use of the ‘wrong kind of dummies’.

Overweight or obese people, Wang claims, are “no longer the exception” but the rulers in America today. Based on this insight Wang has worked with dummy manufacturers Humanetic’s to create new dummies weighing 273 pounds (well over 19 stone in UK money) with a body mass index of 35.

This is great, because safety scientists can now see what happens when really fat people are in car accidents, and watch how organs pushed out of their normal position by vast quantities of surplus food stored as fat will perform in situations of extreme trauma.

Hopefully this will lead to bigger safer cars, with sticky out bits in different places, and perhaps with lateral ‘bulge zones’ to accommodate the fuller figure.

Even if it doesn’t, it will add some welcome variety to the tedious lives of crash simulation technicians.

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