Cars need bigger crash test dummies as number of obese Brits soars

Crash test fatties: Car testers now need bigger dummies to simulate road crashes as number of obese Brits soars

  • Soaring numbers of obese people in the UK are leading to cars being redesigned
  • 15½ stone crash test dummies are currently used to test airbags and seatbelts
  • Experts warn of a need to modify safety tests for people weighing 19 ½ stone 

Soaring numbers of obese people in the UK are leading to cars being redesigned to meet their safety needs, it has emerged.

The heaviest crash test dummies currently in use to calibrate airbags and seatbelts are 15 ½ stone – but experts are warning there is a need to protect obese drivers and passengers with new models weighing 19 ½ stone.

Some 28 percent of adults in England are classed as obese with a BMI over 30, The Telegraph reports.

The European New Car Assessment Programme (NCAP) is set to announce new safety devices to cover a wider range of body types in its Vision 2030 plan. 

Soaring numbers of obese people in the UK are leading to cars being redesigned to meet their safety needs, it has emerged

The heaviest crash test dummies currently in use to calibrate airbags and seatbelts are 15 ½ stone – but this may need to go up to 19½ stone

A Euro NCAP spokesman said: ‘Restraints optimised for the average-sized driver do not necessarily work equally well for shorter or taller drivers, or, for that matter, for obese or more vulnerable older drivers.’

Safety devices such as seatbelts are normally designed to protect an average sixed adult male weighing 11½ stone.

A heavy driver can ‘overwhelm the airbag, effectively ride through the airbag and hit the steering wheel’, said Matthew Avery, chief research strategy officer of Thatcham Research.

Data from British road casualties typically does not include the victim’s weight. 

However, the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, around 40 percent of drivers in the US are classed as obese, and are estimated to be 79 per cent more likely to be in a accident. 

The same statistics found that the elderly are 76 per cent more likely to suffer an accident than the average man.

Safety devices such as seatbelts are normally designed to protect an average sixed adult male weighing 11½ stone

Older motorists are also more likely to be injured from airbags, which deploy at speeds of around 200mph and explode up to 2,000lb of force – potentially causing bone fractures.

‘For older people, if you deploy the airbag too quickly and too close to the steering wheel, then the airbag can actually be the cause of injuries,’ Mr Avery added.

Swedish car model Volvo plans to showcase its new EX90 electric SUV this week, which boasts an interior radar which can track movements less than a millimetre.

Its safety system uses ultrasonic sensors, cameras and a distance-sensing laser system known as Lidar.

A female crash test dummy has also been made by Swedish engineers while physical dummies are set to be phased out by virtual ones.

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