Entry 320: Driving While Expired

What with the world economy still suffering from high rates of unemployment, you’d think we’d stop giving jobs to segments of the population that aren’t even looking for work.

The particular segment I’m talking about now is dead people.

According to an article I found on AOL, six countries in the world use cadavers instead of Fiat500USA.com-Fiat_500L_US_ Crash_Test (12)[1]crash test dummies to measure the effect on the body of various vehicle collisions. One of those countries is Spain, which is not one of the first nations that come to mind when you think of car manufacturers, so I can only assume they’re crashing corpses just for the fun of it.

Evidently, there are two reasons for the use of the driving dead, and I’ll bet you’ve already guessed one of them.

Yes, you’re right: bodies are cheaper than dummies. That’s probably particularly true in China, where everyone seems to work for less.

The second reason is that corpses, unlike dummies, have internal organs, so researchers can see exactly what happens to, say, a kidney when they smash a car into a cement wall at 60 miles an hour. (Hint: It’s not pretty.)

Putting cadavers behind the wheel is not at all a new thing. It’s been going on for decades. In fact, the high-tech crash test dummies in use today owe their design to generations of deceased drivers. There’s actually a name for the field–biomechanics–and it has a history of practitioners who were–how can I put this nicely?–lunatics.

For instance, one of the pioneers in the field was a guy named Lawrence Patrick who beganpatrick in car by studying the effects of impacts on himself. This may explain everything that happened afterward.

Patrick (actually pictured at right and below) quickly saw that using his own body wasn’t going to work in the long term. I’m guessing he discovered this soon after regaining consciousness. I think a sane person might have figured that out beforehand, especially since Patrick had the same limitation eventually discovered in crash test dummies, namely, the inability to study internal organs. Unlike the dummies, Patrick had internal organs, of course; he just lacked access to them (at least if he wanted to perform more tests).

patrick[1]Undaunted, Patrick started working with cadavers. His first experiments–and I am not making this up–involved tossing a corpse down an elevator shaft at Wayne State University (motto: “Please take the stairs.”) Somehow, this helped him determine that the human skull “can be subjected to a ton and a half of pressure for one second without damage.” He also discovered that dropping a body from a great height is not as much fun as dropping a watermelon from the same height because there’s not as much of what biomechanical researchers refer to as “the splat factor.”

Admittedly, I am not well-schooled in this field of science (or any field of science, for thatwatermelon-crushed[1] matter), but I can’t even imagine a scenario where someone’s head would have to endure a ton and a half of pressure for only one second. I mean, if you find yourself with 3,000 pounds of something sitting on your noggin, what are the odds that mass is going to move in the time it takes you to say “one Mississippi,” if you even could say “one Mississippi” with 3,000 pounds on your head. Three thousand pounds just doesn’t overcome inertia that quickly. I don’t even think you’d do that well with 1,500 pounds on your head for two seconds. Unfortunately, Patrick never did discover the perfect equation of pressure to time, although I’d estimate it would be something like 150 pounds for 20 seconds. Then you might have a shot…unless the 150 pounds fell on your head after you had been tossed down an elevator shaft.

Of course, the use of crash test cadavers does have some drawbacks. First, they tend to be single-use subjects. And second, in an hysterical instance of morbid irony, younger cadavers are harder to come by, since car accidents are a leading cause of death for younger people. Once a body’s been mangled in a car wreck, you apparently can’t posthumously mangle it again in another car wreck.

In Other Bad Driving News…

There is a burgeoning new field called “driving rehabilitation therapy.”  Professionals in this field ride along with senior drivers to assess how they are performing on our nation’s roadways.

This is the third most dangerous driving-related profession, right after race car driver (but before stunt driver and drivers’ ed teachers). The most dangerous is drivers’ ed teacher for seniors.

As someone who has spent some time driving around Ft. Lauderdale, I find that I can assess a senior’s motoring performance from a much safer place: stuck behind him while he’s going 20 mph. Yes, I can very accurately assess the capability of that person whose turn signal has been blinking for three miles, and that other person who slows down immediately upon merging into your lane on the I-95, and that other driver whose gender I cannot discern because his or her head does not appear above the steering wheel.

These driving rehabilitation specialists often recommend limitations on the senior’s driving license so that the person’s mobility doesn’t have to be taken away entirely. For instance, they might say “You can’t drive at night.” Or “You can’t drive unless you’re wearing eyeglasses that are so thick you can’t fit behind the steering wheel.” Or “You cannot drive with the handicapped parking tag hanging from your mirror because it distracts you.”

Of course, some seniors might be limited to “only those circumstances in which all other vehicular and pedestrian traffic has been removed from the roads.”

That wouldn’t make them any safer, but at least they wouldn’t be creating a bunch of crash test dummies every time they went driving.

See you soon.

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