According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention the average American man weighs 195 pounds, a 21 pound increase from forty years ago. The weight of the average American woman has increased by roughly the same amount in that time. Unfortunately, according to ABC News, the crash test dummies used to test car safety today are pretty much the same as they were when they were introduced in the 70s, which poses some unique problems for crash safety researchers.
"The dummies over the course of decades have not changed at all – but the overall population has," University of Michigan professor Stewart Wang told ABC News. "The vast majority of people that we see in most trauma centers come from motor vehicle crashes. And what we're seeing is, it's the people who don't look like the perfect, standardized person. These are the more vulnerable people that are getting hurt at a higher rate."
New research into how various body types respond to auto crashes has led dummy manufacturer Humanetics to design a more diverse set of dummies. This includes elderly and obese dummies to better reflect the variety of American physiques.
Jim Davis, Humanetics' vice president of engineering, told ABC News, "We're getting older, we're getting heavier, you know, so the dummies have to evolve as we evolve. As our bodies change, we have to structure the dummies to mimic that change in order to let the car manufacturers manufacture safer systems."