There’s very little mystery behind car safety anymore. These days, the auto industry’s rigorous crash tests reveal almost everything there is to know before ever putting rubber to the road.

There is still a bit of mystery, however, behind those who make these important tests possible in the first place: the crash test dummies.

Clearly, the time has come for answers. So we’re passing around a family newsletter of sorts, introducing you to the modern Crash Test Clan (and how they help keep us safe).

Car seat safety: Hybrid III 10-year-old child

This is one of the latest additions to the Dummy family. “Born” February 2012 at 77.6 lbs (tore right through those footed pajamas), its main function is to measure how well car seats and boosters reduce injuries in a crash for children 65 lbs and up.

(In case you didn’t know, the NHTSA revised their child seat standards back in November 2011, which is one reason this dummy was born.)

Front impact: Hybrid III adult

These are the Dummy elders, some joining the family as far back as 1988. Used in frontal collisions, they come in 3 main forms (a 5th-percentile female, 50th-percentile male, and 95th-percentile male) meant to encompass the majority of driver sizes. For instance, the 5th-percentile female stands at just 4’11’’ while the 95th-percentile male measures 6’2’’. Most motorists fall somewhere in between.

Side impact: BioSID

While many Dummies choose a career in the frontal-impact field, some members of the family opt for the path less taken: side impact. And BioSID is one of them. Originally developed by GM, BioSID spends its days testing the lateral-impact worthiness of vehicles and their potential injury risks. And while a career in side impact might not offer a dummy the same acclaim found in frontal crashes, it does offer one special perk — namely, a torso that can rotate 180 degrees.

Child restraint systems: CRABI infant

In the Dummy family, you’re never too young to start pulling your own weight. In fact, the minute you’re able to sit upright and stare blankly ahead, there’s a position for you. Take the CRABI infants, for example. These 3 models — a 6-, 12-, and 18-month-old — may be young, but they’re already indispensable. They have the vital job of testing the integrity of child-restraint systems. And, prodigies that they are, they simulate impact from all angles, with or without air bag interference, so parents will know just how safe a car is for their baby.

Pedestrian safety: Hybrid III pedestrian

Did you know that some Dummies test pedestrian impact? And not just the impact from cars, either. These models also measure injury potential from run-ins with wheelchairs, recreational vehicles, and sporting gear. Now, if you ask most of the car-bound Dummies, they’d say these are the odd ducks of the family. Then again, with rare, straight-lumbar spines allowing them to stand up, the pedestrian bunch can inspire a lot of jealousy. And, really, what’s a family without a little sibling rivalry?

Related links

How crash test ratings can affect your car insurance
How crash tests work

The evolution of crash test dummies

Virtual crash testing

Safe and smart


about Alex

As copywriter for Esurance, Alex had professional experience in everything from film to literature to (thanklessly!) correcting the grammar in friends' emails. As a fervent Minnesota sports fan, he spends most of his non-writing time gently weeping into cereal bowls.