NHTSA Unveils New Member of Crash Test Dummy Family

Crash test dummies are more than just a rock band! At the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety, crash test dummies are the car crash safety program’s shining stars. These dummies are carefully constructed to replicate what happens to the driver and passengers in the event of an accident.

Automotive crash test dummies help save thousands of lives each year by providing invaluable car crash safety data to automakers, which also helps to determine vehicle safety ratings. And when it comes to the effects of car crashes on children, this data is about to get even better.

In February, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) introduced a new crash test dummy modeled after a 10-year old’s size and stature. The dummy’s introduction is part of NHTSA’s new child seat compliance testing program. While extensive testing exists for infant and toddler car seats, less information is available for booster seat performance in car accidents. With the new dummy, NHTSA aims to rectify this lack of data.

Car crashes are the leading cause of death for children under the age of 12, according to NHTSA.

Last year, NHTSA issued new recommendations for children’s booster seats which state that all children should remain in a booster seat until they meet the height and weight requirements to ride in a vehicle’s regular seat. These requirements are typically satisfied when a child reaches 4 feet, 9 inches tall and is between the ages of eight and twelve.

Unlike car seats, which provide additional cushioning and protection, a booster seat is designed primarily to ensure a proper seat belt fit. A seat belt should fit snugly across the waist and shoulder, lying flat on a child’s upper thighs and mid-shoulder.

Prior to the new dummy, testers relied on a dummy that was crafted after a 6-year old’s height and weight to evaluate booster seats. However, with the new regulation urging the use of booster seats up to 12 years of age, and the new, bigger dummy will provide more detailed car crash safety information.

Car crashes are the leading cause of death for children under the age of 12, according to NHTSA. While vehicle safety ratings can give a good indication of an automobile’s overall performance in an accident, these ratings assume that any youth passengers are properly secured prior to the accident. However, an NHTSA study shows that “3 out of 4 children are not as safe as they should be, because their car seats are not being used correctly.”