The History of the Crash Test Dummy
Driving in a car is one of the most dangerous things you can do. Every day, thousands of accidents happen in Arizona and across the country. Most people have been in at least one accident, but many people have been in several. If you’re lucky, your next accident will be nothing more than a minor fender bender that requires a little auto body repair from your local Phoenix collision repair center. If you’re one of the unlucky, you could be seriously injured or even killed.
Automobile manufacturers have been making their vehicles safer with features like electronic stability control, forward collision alerts and strategically placed airbags. One way that they have tested the efficacy of these safety features is run crash tests with dummies that are the average size and weight for most people.
You may remember the crash test dummy from a series of commercials in the 1980s, but you may not know much about these dummies. The crash test dummy actually has a long and interesting history.
The first recorded victim of an automobile accident was in 1869, when a woman was involved in a steam-powered car accident. Talks began in the 1890s about the need for crash testing, but efforts did not begin in earnest until around the 1930s, when cars became more common.
The very first crash tests involved cadavers. A team of researchers at Wayne State University in Detroit conducted tests such as dropping ball bearings on skulls or dumping bodies down elevator shafts in order to understand the impact of a high-speed crash on a body. Bodies were also placed in cars that were crashed into walls or other cars.
The use of cadavers posed some moral concerns, and the results were not reliable since the bodies could have had previous injuries and since the majority of bodies were white males.
A professor and some students at the university then began volunteering for crash testing. The tests involved things like being sprayed with shattered glass or getting hit in the face by hammers. Not only were these tests limited, but they were also considered unethical.
Testing moved onto animals, primarily pigs, by the mid-1950s. The primary purpose of the animal testing was to tackle the problem of steering wheel impalement and decapitation. The animal testing drew even more opposition than the cadaver testing. However, it continued well into the 1990s.
Crash test dummies were introduced as early as 1949, when a dummy was used to test ejection seats in aircraft. The same company started producing the dummies for General Motors and Ford shortly thereafter. The dummies could be put through tests involving greater speeds and force than the other subjects previously used.
In 1971, GM produced its own crash test dummy that was closer in size and weight to the average male. It also produced a female dummy that it shared with competitors.
The next year, GM produced a dummy that had more sophisticated response in the shoulder, spine and knee.
The current line of crash test dummies, known as the Hybrid III line, was produced in 1976. These dummies include a male, a female, and three children ages 10, 6 and 3. The Hybrid III family includes improvements to the neck response and head rotation.