NHTSA Announces New Crash-Test Dummy for Older, Obese Children

By Jacob Brown | February 22, 2012
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration uses specially designed dummies to simulate crash testing with children and adults of all different ages, heights, and weights. But one it didn't adopt into its family of child dummies until now is its 10-year-old weighing more than 65 pounds. Largely due to the rise in childhood obesity, the new dummy is designed to be an in-betweener, as six to eight-years-old is the cutoff in most states for having to use child seats. However, most seats weren't designed to be used for children over 65 pounds, creating a situation where the child seats could actually further endanger heavier children in a crash instead of help them. Interestingly enough—and possibly indicative of the pork rinds and NASCAR culture of the South—South Carolina's car seat laws for children indicate that children can ride in a car without a seat if he or she is at least one year old and weighs 80 pounds. We're a little scared to see what an 80-pound infant looks like should that ever be the case.
Regardless, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood says this crash test dummy provides a much-needed research tool in a changing U.S. "The new test dummy breaks new ground for the department's crash test program and is a significant steam forward for evaluating child seat performance," he said in a statement. Because of its new dummy, the NHTSA is able to move forward with now stipulating child seat manufacturers are able to provide seats for children 65 to 80 pounds within the next two years. The NHTSA recently concluded in 2009 there were 1314 children age 14 or younger killed in car accidents and more than 179,000 injured. Statistics showed child seats reduced the risk of death by 71 percent in infants and reduced the same risk 54 percent in children four or younger. Automotive.com's take: The newly adopted 10-year-old child dummy joins a newborn, a 12-month-old, a three-year-old, a six-year-old, and an overweight six-year-old, as well as adults of varying size and shape. With two "big-boned" child dummies in the mix, it's good we're planning for reality. But it's also saddening to see this of a generation of children that could be facing health risks well beyond anything car-related. Source: The Washington Post