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Highway fatalities may stem from old crash test dummies

In recent years, auto manufacturers and safety experts have seen a gap between crash test results and the number of fatalities caused by motor vehicle accidents. Automakers face constantly improving standards for safety equipment that should lead to safer roads, but 35,000 people are still killed in auto accidents every year.

Experts use test crashes to gauge the safety and crashworthiness of cars, often involving crash test dummies. These tests allow for certain injury measures that guide whether a car passes; a dummy's injuries must fall below an acceptable level. Despite tests that often see half the allowable injury measure, these cars often go on to be involved in fatal crashes.

Some safety experts blame this inconsistency on out-of-date crash test dummies. Many dummies and tests have been modeled on tests done 45 years ago on volunteer Navy sailors, which may not reflect the realities of today's vehicles and population.

In addition, dummies being used for road tests are considerably smaller and thinner than the average population who will be using the vehicles. In order to get accurate results in tests involving dummies, they should more accurately reflect road users.

To address some of these limitations, testers may use computer models of human bodies in the future to gain a better understanding of what happens to bones and organs during an accident. Currently, experts must infer what would happen to the body from a dummy that can't actually have broken bones or other injuries. More advanced models would give them a more detailed look at what happens in an accident.

If you or someone you love have been injured in an accident caused in part by a defective vehicle or someone else's negligence, consider speaking to a personal injury attorney experienced in motor vehicle accident claims. They can help you review the circumstances of your accident, determine liability and pursue any appropriate claims for damages, including lost wages, medical bills and punitive damages.

Source: Claims Journal, "Outdated Crash Test Dummies Blamed for Continued Auto Fatalities," Denise Johnson, Dec. 18, 2012

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