Safety Testing

(How cars and airplanes are tested for safety.)

I’m sure you don’t know anything about how cars are tested for safety, so I shall enlighten you.

What’s that? You do? Tell me then, if you”re so smart.

Plastic dummies? Well, I agree about the dummy part, but not plastic. Maybe a bit rubbery around the kneecaps, though.

What else do you know?

Contained testing areas? What’s this stuff about contained testing areas? That’s crazy! Where did you hear that?

TV? TV who? Look, I don’t know this TV person, but he obviously doesn’t know anything about cars. Let me explain things so they’ll make more sense.


First, the car is made in a factory. I bet you didn’t even know that. You probably just though that cars grew on trees.

Anyway, secondly, the manufacturers of the car try to find some gullible teenager to drive the car around for a while. If they do, and the car and the teenager both survive, then the factory doesn’t have to make anymore tests. And if the teenager or car doesn’t survive, well, nobody is going to worry about it, since almost no car can survive a teenager’s driving.

If, however, the manufacturers can’t find a teenager to test-drive the car, then the people in the factory have to draw straws.

“Sorry, Fred,” one of the factory foremen says to the man with the short straw. “I’ll phone your wife and tell her there’s no point in waiting dinner on you. And don’t worry, things might come out all right. You’re insured!”

“I might be insured, but I’m not assured,” says the other man (the engineer who designed the car), throwing down the short straw and stamping on it.

“Hey, don’t do that! Do you know how much those things coast nowadays?”


The unlucky man is strapped into the car, handed the keys, and assured by a priest that if he repents, then his sins will be forgiven. The runway is cleared, children pulled indoors, and little old ladies are left stranded in the street (which is probably the safest spot).

Vrooooooooom, vroooooooooooooom, v-v-vroom. The car speeds up, swerving wildly from left to right and missing every old lady. The car heads towards a turn, the tires screech, a couple of fence posts take a lifelong vacation by flying several miles away.

The car has survived so far, but the test is pointless until the car crashes. The driver of the car decides to test the foam-covered fenders by hitting the man that held the straws.


Now the driver has worked up enough courage to crash the car. He aims his car at the only other vehicle in sight—an unlucky limousine. He’s picking up speed! He’s heading straight for the target! Suddenly—BOOM!

How was the driver supposed to know that the car he was aiming at was the President’s?

Sadly, the car didn’t pass the safety test, which now requires that the car be able to stand against nuclear attacks. If it can’t even survive a armor-piercing-high-explosive-presidential-defense missile, then it doesn’t stand a chance.


Airplanes testing is in a completely different ballpark entirely. It’s in a football field. The newly-created airplanes are carried out by a team of football players. (That’s how the major league players really get their muscles.) Then the lucky person is dragged out, barely concealing his excitement and joy beneath an anguished grimace.

“Honest,” he says. “I didn’t mean nothin’ when I asked for a raise.”

“But, Bob, don’t you want a big rise in stature? You’re really gonna soar high today!”

Planes are tested less for their durability in a crash, but more for the simplistic design of the controls that allow even a bumbling idiot to land the plane.

I’ve got another pop question for you, surprise! Now, do you know what those big things at either end of the football field are for?

Goals? What do you mean “goals”? That just goes to show that you know nothing about football. Those things are giant slingshots! I thought everybody knew that. You see, the football teams would launch footballs at each other until one team was reduced to zero players. The players stood on each others’ shoulders to get high enough to launch the footballs. (One well-aimed football to the bottom of the tower of players could bring about an instant victory.)

Anyway, the airplane testers use a similar method of launching their planes. When the test plane is high in the air, they say: “Okay, Bob. Now just glide the plane down to the ground and land it.”

“How do I land it?”

“Push the stick gently forward to lower the nose. That’s all there is to it.”

Bob brings the plane in close to the ground, the testers hold their breath (probably because Bob is right above them), the plane glides several yards, and all looks well. Then the plane points straight down and crashes.

“I think the main problem was in the controls,” said one tester later.

“Yeah,” said another. “But look at it this way: the plane stood up to the crash just fine, hardly a scratch on it. Too bad about Bob, though.”

Published in: on July 16, 2007 at 11:05 AM  Comments (3)  

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. […] actually included one I hadn’t heard before)—or maybe I have been reading too many of Chickenfoot’s strange tales—but anyway, I’m in a mood for […]

  2. I think this is your best story yet. I’m surprised that JK Rowling didn’t think of the football slingshots to shoot at the Quidditch players. Keep them coming……….

  3. I have to admit that I didn’t know any of that before. 😉

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