"The typical patient today is overweight or obese – they're the rule rather than the exception," said Dr. Stewart Wang in a statement. Wang is the director of the University of Michigan International Center for Automotive Medicine. "You can't talk about injuries without talking about the person."
"The condition, size and shape of an individual is hugely important in how severe their injuries are in any given crash."
Wang's research has shown that obese people tend to slip under a lap seat belt during frontal crashes because their stomach slackens the belt. Thus, obese people are at a higher risk of lower-extremity injuries in frontal crashes.
The elderly manikin, which mirrors the physique of a 70-year-old overweight woman, reflects a sagging chest that makes older people as much as fifteen times as likely to suffer torso injuries in a crash.
"Few would have envisioned that people would drive into their 80s, but we have to look at that," said Chris O'Connor, CEO of Humanetics, in a statement. "As the population changes, we must have test equipment that resembles consumers today."
The US Department of Transportation reports that 40 million licensed drivers, or 18.4 percent of the driving population in the country, are over the age of 65.
"As the demographics of the driving population continues to evolve, our crash test dummies and the test equipment that we design & manufacture must continue to evolve at the same rate," said O'Connor.
"Let's not forget the more vulnerable drivers on the road and provide a product that the car manufacturers, government agencies and research groups around the world can use to design and test a safer car for people of all sizes and ages."
Crash-test-dummy proportions have remained essentially unchanged since the 1960s, but the average American driver is now about 8 years older and over 20 pounds heavier than at that period.