WASHINGTON -- U.S. regulators denied Monday a request from a prominent insurance industry group to change how crash test dummies are seated in cars.
But the Transportation Department's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration did not rule out revisiting the issue if later evidence shows that longtime government standards are inadequate.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety said in a 2002 petition that standards for dummies placed in adjustable front seats for common tests do not reflect real-world driving conditions.
The group also said that manufacturers could easily manipulate seating positions to gain more favorable results.
"It's a philosophical approach that we're trying to espouse. That dummy seating positions in crash tests should reflect where we think people actually sit in real cars," said Adrian Lund, a senior executive with the insurance institute.
The group, backed by leading insurance companies, conducts its own crash tests and works with regulators on safety measures.
Lund's group challenged seating positions in the two most common types of trials mainly performed by manufacturers -- front- and side-impact crash tests.
These tests mainly position belted dummies constructed to represent the average sized adult male at 170 pounds and a female weighing 108 pounds.
Federal regulations require the seat placed at the midtrack position for the male dummy in both tests and at the full-front forward position for the female in the frontal crash test. The rules allow manufacturers to set seat backs to their recommended angle.
The insurance group believes seating positions should follow criteria developed by experts at the University of Michigan. They compared the seating positions of 600 adult volunteers with the government standards and concluded the volunteers sat slightly farther back than where the government requires.
Regulators say their standards do not meet all real-world positions but that they are adequate in most cases. The highway traffic safety agency also said the insurance group did not give "compelling evidence" to conclude that its proposal was any better.
Lund said the insurance group will go back to the agency with updated data to press for change.