As seen on:

SMH Logo News Logo

Call 1300 303 181

Car Safety Trivia

This is the closest the Hybrid III crash test dummy family gets to smiling.

The Hybrid III crash test dummy family portrait.

I don’t know why trivia books are so popular, but they are. We could spend a bit of time pondering what it is about humanity that makes collecting obscure and quirky facts interesting or amusing. However, that wouldn’t be half as much fun as actually sharing a bit of trivia, taking the topic of car safety this time.

Not that car safety is a trivial issue, by any means. These days, a new car review is just as likely to emphasise all the safety features, active and passive, as it is to list the power and torque stats. And no wonder: in the state of Victoria last year, there were 248 fatal road accidents; NSW had 302. Some of these were drivers, some were passengers, some were cyclists and some were pedestrians. This is why safety features exist, everybody. There are a lot of lives that could be saved. When you think about the number of people who do idiot things like not wearing seatbelts, drinking too much and driving at speeds that are just plain too fast for the conditions, “facepalm” and “head-desk” just don’t quite cover it.

Right, enough depressing stuff and on with the trivia…

  • Top-level crash testing facilities such as MIRA in the UK don’t just crash-test cars. They also test other vehicles like heavy trucks, and “roadside furniture” such as lamp posts and traffic lights. Yes, they now crash-test lamp-posts to make them safer so wrapping your car around a pole is less likely. Don’t hold your breath for them to make it over to Australia for a while yet, though, so drive safely!
  • The first crash test dummy was called “Sierra Sam”.  Sam was invented in the late 1940s and was used for testing ejector seats in aircraft. It wasn’t until later that someone realised that using crash test dummies would be a good idea for new car models.
  • The average crash test dummy is 1.78 metres tall.
  • Airbags were first invented in 1952 by US inventor John W Hetrick. However, it wasn’t until 1971 that Ford  first actually put them in.
  • The three-point seatbelt that we all know today was invented in 1959 by a guy working for Volvo named Nils Ivar Bohlin. According to Volvo , during the inventor’s lifetime, about 1 million lives were saved by the three-point seatbelt. Let’s all make his name known more widely, because he certainly deserves it.
  • The state of Victoria was the first place in the world to enact seat belt legislation in 1970 when they made it compulsory for drivers and front seat passengers to wear some sort of seat belt. That’s over 40 years ago and some people still haven’t managed to get it.
  • Crash test dummies aren’t the only things strapped into the seats of cars and propelled at speed into an obstacle. Over the years, testers have used human cadavers and, rather nastily, live pigs under anaesthesia. Testing with live anaesthetised animals wasn’t banned until 1993. Cadaver testing sounds pretty macabre and probably is, but is considered to be the absolute best way to test new passive safety features. When you think about it, it’s no worse than donating organs for transplants or donating your body to medical colleges for research purposes and it does help save lives. It certainly beats using the poor old piggies.
  • Airbags inflate at 320 km/h, which is faster than the top speed of most cars they’re installed in.
  • The most common type of crash test dummy is the Hybrid III. To be more accurate, the Hybrid III family is used. This crash test dummy family consists of Mr Hybrid III (five foot nine inches), his big brother Uncle Hybrid III (six foot two), Mrs Hybrid III (five foot no inches) and two kids aged six and three. Mr Hybrid represents the 50th percentile for adults, Uncle is the 95th percentile and Mrs Hybrid is the 5th percentile.
  • Those percentiles mentioned in the snippet above are now out of date. Thanks to galloping obesity (or, more appropriately, not galloping), there’s a chance that crash testing facilities are going to need big fat dummies.

Safe (very safe) and happy driving,

Megan

Comments are closed!