Do you know the role Crash Test Dummies play in your safety while riding in a car? (image via google)

Many of us change our diet to lose weight, watch our salt to lower our blood pressure, and take medication to help with cholesterol because we know that heart disease and stroke are two of the leading causes of death for adults in the U.S.  But we rarely think about, let alone change our driving habits to make driving safer.  Yet car accidents, which claim the lives of more than 30,000 Americans each year, are also amongst the leading causes of death.

Fortunately, even though we aren’t thinking about how to be safer drivers, other people are thinking about how to make driving safer and their efforts are making a difference.  These are the people who work in the area of crash test science which uses crash test dummies to learn how car accidents affect the human body so that cars can be designed to provide more protection.  According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), efforts in this area have helped to decrease the number of fatalities from 23 per 100,000 licensed drivers to 16 during the 15 year period from 1994 to 2009.

So, how does crash test science help make you safer?

The use of crash test dummies in one form or another started early on in the evolution of the car.  Car makers realized that in order to make cars safer, they needed to understand what happened to the occupants of the car when collisions occurred.  In the first half of the 20th century, cadavers and pigs acted as crash test subjects, allowing car makers to see the types of damage caused from things hitting bodies and from bodies impacting other things.    While this was helpful, it didn’t show the other kinds of damage that collisions cause like those resulting from gravitational force and kinetic energy.   It was also impossible to conduct standardized testing.

Then, in 1949, came Sierra Sam, the first real crash test dummy.  Sierra Sam was originally designed to test what happened when a person was ejected using an ejector seat in an aircraft.  From Sam, crash test dummies have developed into very sophisticated pieces of equipment that can cost as much as $400,000.  Crash test dummies allow for standardized tests to be conducted across multiple vehicles and different scenarios.  This enables car makers to learn how to make cars safer and to test changes to ensure changes actually improve safety in the ways they expect.

As long as there are cars being driven by people, there will be accidents.  This means that making crashes more survivable is the key to further decreasing the fatality rate.  Survivability goes beyond keeping people inside the car and keeping the passenger compartment intact, although improvements in these areas have dramatically increased the safety of our cars.  This is where crash test dummies and the data they provide make a real difference.  Gaining a real understanding of the kinetic energy a body is subjected to during a collision enables car designers to design cars in ways to reduce those effects.

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Article provided by The Hartford

Are you prepared if you get stranded in your car? Image via MJIphotos on Flickr.

Having an emergency preparedness kit in your car is sort of like having good insurance. You hope you’ll never need it—but boy are you glad it’s there on road trips if you have an accident or need to help others.

If you become stranded, it can be critical to have the right supplies to speed up being rescued, say driver-safety experts. This is especially true in winter weather, when having the right supplies could also mean your survival.

It’s easy to be prepared for road trips. Emergency kits with most of these essentials cost $30 to $100 at stores that sell auto accessories. But you can also assemble your own emergency preparedness kit. To be ready for any roadside emergency, here’s what you should include.

In the Trunk

Use a sturdy canvas bag with handles or a plastic bin to store your emergency preparedness kit, and secure it so it doesn’t roll or bounce around when the car is moving. Include the following:

  •  Flashlight and extra batteries
  •  Cloth or roll of paper towels
  •  Jumper cables
  •  Blankets
  •  Flares or warning triangles
  •  Drinking water
  •  Nonperishable snacks, such as energy or granola bars
  •  Extra clothes
  •  First-aid kit
  • Basic tool kit that includes, at minimum, flat-head and Phillips screwdrivers, pliers, and adjustable wrench

Winter Add-ons

Inventory your items in the winter and spring, and include these six items before the winter months:

  • Window washer solvent
  • Ice scraper
  • Bag of sand, salt, or cat litter, or traction mats
  • Snow shovel
  • Snow brush
  • Gloves, hats, and additional blanket
  • Glove Compartment

Not all emergency equipment should be behind the backseat or in the trunk. Here are three essential items to stow within the driver’s reach:

  • Mobile phone
  • Phone charger
  • Auto-safety hammer (some have an emergency beacon and belt-cutting tool, too)