Crash Test Dummies

Those words might bring to mind the late ‘80s Canadian rock band famous for that “Mmmm Mmmm Mmmm Mmmm” song about a boy whose body “cars had smashed so hard,” but crash test dummies have been enduring crashes since Samuel W. Alderson created the first human simulacra, “Sierra Sam,” in 1949. Sierra Sam, used to test aircraft ejection seats, was developed as a result of cadaver research and animal studies, bodies that had been used to test and improve automobile safety since the 1930s. In fact, bears and pigs were still test crash subjects as late as 1980. In the ‘80s, public service announcements from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration anthropomorphized crash test dummies Vince and Larry, making them slapstick spokesmen for seat belt safety. In the early ‘90s, the two dummies made their way into popular culture, as action figures released by Tyco Toys and characters in the half-hour TV special The Incredible Crash Dummies. Video games and comic books also featured them. Today’s crash test dummies don’t get as much attention, though they have become more “sensitive” and representative of the ways the human body responds upon impact. Car accidents have continued to increase as well given that drivers are more distracted by texting and talking on the phone while driving. Over 300,000 severe-injury accidents are caused yearly by people who are texting while driving. Sounds like we all still “could learn a lot from a dummy.”