Pregnant Dummies Improve Safety

Considering women make up almost 52% of the world's total population, you'd think that  automobile manufacturers would pay more attention to such a large portion of their potential customers' demographic. Since there isn't any car specifically designed for women yet, we shall look at how crash testing is made. We've all seen how a regular dummy used for accident research looks like, and for some reason almost all of them are modeled after male humans, large or small (to represent children).

The standard dummy used by the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) and IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) nowadays is still based on the Hybrid III, which was first introduced in 1978, when the NHTSA first began its crash test program. The Hybrid III is shaped after an average-sized adult male, weighing in at 170 pounds (77 kilograms) and having a height of 5 feet and 9 inches (175 centimeters).

During the years, different sizes and shapes (we are including females and children here) of dummies were designed for the tests, all because of the growing concern about the “perfect crash test.” Even though now there's a whole range of male, female and children dummies, apparently no one thought about pregnant (female, even though nowadays...) drivers.

Well, actually you'd be wrong to think that, because Volvo engineers are way ahead. They have been working on a virtual pregnant crash test dummy for several years. According to research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the number one cause of injury death among unborn babies are car accidents. Freaky statistic...

“Linda”, as the computer-modeled dummy is called at Volvo, is shaped after an average-sized woman in her 36th week of pregnancy. If you're wondering why there isn't any real version of Linda yet, there is a reason for that.

"It is difficult and perhaps even impossible to build a physical model with as much detail and accuracy in human tissue response as we have in Linda," said Laura Thackray, a biomechanics and crash simulation engineer at Volvo Cars Safety Center, and also the person who took care of Linda's development.

"Additionally, if a physical model was to be made, with realistic tissue responses, it would likely be destroyed after a single crash…. Our computer model can endure as many crashes as we'd like — at any severity level," Thackray also explained.

Since car safety for unborn children is not such a well documented area, the most important safety measure for them is to keep their pregnant mother safe. The first thing to do is to always wear a safety belt, which not all pregnant women do from the fear of injury to their child.

“Our research shows that the best protection for pregnant women and their unborn babies is for the mother to wear her three-point safety belt, and to wear it properly. This reduces the foetal injury risk significantly,” says Lotta Jakobsson, Senior Child Safety Specialist at Volvo.

Until the technology evolves sufficient enough to protect everyone equally in the even of a crash, these are some words of wisdom from Volvo for the pregnant woman riding in an automobile:

- first adjust the seat so you can reach the pedals comfortably with as much distance between your belly and the steering wheel as possible;
- pull the lap belt over your thighs, buckle it in and pull tight. Make sure the lap belt does not run across the belly, but lies as flat as possible under the curve;
- position the torso belt across your chest, between the breasts to the side of the belly and pull tight;
- never tuck the shoulder belt under your arm or behind your back - that can hurt both you and the baby.

Drive safely, you and your baby!
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About the author: Alex Oagana
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Alex handled his first real steering wheel at the age of five (on a field) and started practicing "Scandinavian Flicks" at 14 (on non-public gravel roads). Following his time at the University of Journalism, he landed his first real job at the local franchise of Top Gear magazine a few years before Mircea (Panait). Not long after, Alex entered the New Media realm with the project.
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