Tweaking The Design Of Crash Test Dummies In One Small Way Could Save Lives

A new model will put on about one hundred pounds to more accurately represent the average American driver.

Humanetics, the creators behind crash test dummies used to test safety features for most of the United States' produced vehicles, is addressing the country's expanding waistline with a whole new line of obese dummies.

"Obese people are 78 percent more likely to die in a crash," company CEO Chris O' Connor tells CNN. "The reason is the way we get fat. We get fat in our middle range. And we get out of position in a typical seat."

Seat belts and air bags have historically been designed for thinner people with a healthy BMI, or Body Mass Index. With over 70 percent of Americans falling overweight on the scale, it was clear to O'Connor that he needed to accommodate for the change in size. The typical 167-pound model is being super-sized to 270 pounds (or a BMI of 35).

"Typically you want someone in a very tight position with their rear against the back of the seat and the seat belt tight to the pelvis,” O’Conner further explains. "An obese person has more mass around midsection and a larger rear which pushes them out of position. They sit further forward and the belt does not grasp the pelvis as easily."

Data from researchers at the University at Buffalo and Erie County Medical Center concluded in 2010 that moderately obese drivers had a 21 percent increased risk of death, while morbidly obese drivers shot up to a 56 percent risk of dying in a car accident.

"We need to find a way to make cars safer for everyone, regardless of size," O'Connor says.

The plus-sized dummies will go into trial usage by the end of this year and become available for wider use in 2015.