- The Washington Times - Friday, February 1, 2002

Most of us know that automobile manufacturers go far beyond the required field of crash testing in the quest to make their vehicles safer. Although a government agency may only require a head-on crash test, many manufacturers will test a vehicle by crashing it at many different angles.

Porsche, for example, tests its cars in a side impact simulating a collision with a utility pole. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety performs its much publicized rear-end test with a parking lot pole. General Motors is stretching the norm a bit with specialized crash-test dummies that simulate a pregnant woman and children of various ages.

I have seen some unusual crash testing that takes vehicle accidents into the strange-but-true arena. Far too many major injuries and deaths occur each year because of pedestrians walking in front of motor vehicles. Honda performs an innovative series of tests using a sophisticated dummy that simulates a pedestrian having a collision with a motor vehicle. Honda began this testing to see how it can design vehicles to minimize the injuries sustained by that pedestrian

Code named POLAR II, this dummy is a complicated and sophisticated collection of components that simulate the human structure. Taking readings from eight different measurement points, POLAR II gives engineers a better understanding of the injuries incurred in the typical vehicle vs. pedestrian accident.

Honda was looking to establish what truly happens in these accidents, so directed its designers to build POLAR II with synthetic ligaments, tendons and bones. From each of the sensitive areas, sensors send readings to a computer that establishes the type and extent of injuries, had this been a real person.

Even within the skull, there are sensors that can send information to the computer to analyze any possible brain damage.

The most unusual and perhaps the most damaging is Saab's moose test. Now, we all know that moose are huge, in fact, they are as large as a horse and much more prevalent to wandering onto the roadways of Sweden and Canada.

If a vehicle can survive an impact with one of these behemoths, it certainly would handle a puny little American deer.

Although this crash dummy doesn't actually look like a moose you might see in the wild, it is the closest Saab can get to the real thing without getting in trouble with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. This dummy, which weighs about 1,500 pounds, is hung from cables at the level an average moose might stand. With the "moose" standing in the "road," the test vehicles are crashed into the moose a various speeds.

A typical moose is taller than the front end of a vehicle, so the impact usually knocks the animal off its feet, propelling it into the windshield and roof of the vehicle. The results of this type of crash test results in Saab developing stronger glass, support structures and roofs for its automobiles.

While all this many sound like a drastic and far-flung way of testing vehicles, these unusual and somewhat zany tests are performed for an excellent reason: to make our vehicles stronger and safer for all of us. In each case, vehicle manufacturers are continually looking for new ways to make our world safer.

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