April 17, 2024

Cadavers used as crash test dummies

A long-established practice

Here’s something you probably don’t know about car safety. Developing better seat belts and airbags has always depended upon testing car crashes with cadavers. Ford, for instance, has been promoting the use of inflatable seat belts in its 2011 Explorer. “It’s still very important,” Priya Prasad, a former top safety researcher at Ford, told Wired magazine. “Even though we have very good math modeling of dummies, human modeling hasn’t reached that state yet.” The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration funds university tests on cadavers every year and many universities also receive grants from car manufacturers.

The researchers attempt to treat the cadavers with respect. Their heads are swaddled and their limbs are bound. Sensors record the forces exerted on various body parts. After a simulated crash, the corpses are X-rayed and autopsied. The universities are experienced in dealing with informed consent, so they ensure that the relatives of donors are informed and that the bodies will be disposed of appropriately.

The car companies would like to eliminate the need for cadaver tests. They use virtual modelling extensively because it is cheaper and raises few ethical issues.  But testing with real bodies is still necessary to capture how human tissue responds to catastrophic injuries. There are other needs as well. Cadaver tests are being used to design football helmets to decrease the danger of concussion and how to protect soldiers from traumatic brain injuries. ~ Wired, Aug 31

Michael Cook
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