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Crash Test Corpses?

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On: Tue, Oct 29, 2013 at 7:08AM | By: Karen Cook

Crash Test Corpses?

I’ve always felt sorry for crash test dummies. I have anthropomorphism, which is the assignment of feelings to inanimate objects. It got worse when all those commercials came out featuring self-aware and auto-ambulatory dummies. The first dummies produced and used to test automobile safety were made in the 1950s, but the ones we are used to seeing came into use in the 1970s.

These life-size dolls are used to test safety in all areas of a car, when they aren’t starring in television advertisements, of course. Everything from seat belts and air bags to full on top-speed collisions can be tested using these models. Dummies come in every age, both sexes, and even animal versions for testing pet restraints and carriers. They have been invaluable in the research to make cars safer and crashes survivable. Until accurate models were available, car manufacturers believed and told the public that automobile accidents simply were not survivable since the impact on the body was too great.

But what do you do if you can’t afford one for your testing and what did they do before they were available? The answer is cadavers. I bring this up because of the season, and because corpses are still being used for testing. Current dummies do not afford the ability to judge internal damage in a crash accurately.

Human bodies have been used in testing since the 1930s, even in the face of ethical and moral issues. They also have limitations as they can be used only once. However, they are much less expensive and provide information that technology has thus far been unable to duplicate.

Recently Spain has reported that it intends to discontinue testing on expensive dummies and return to human body testing. It is one of only six countries in the world still using corpses. The bodies come from labs and have already been used for medical testing before moving on to car crashes. Their previous owners made the choice to donate their remains for this purpose and, because of their gift, 8,500 lives are saved each year.

Oddly, I feel better knowing that less research will be done on traditional dummies in Spain. I mean, it’s a hard job and their insurance must be outrageous. Also, it has to be hard to sleep after a day of smashing your head on a windshield. Does Tylenol even make a pill for that?


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