Crash test dummies have been the subject of public service announcements, cartoons, parodies, even the name of a band. Real crash test dummies, however, are true life-savers as an integral part of automotive crash tests. Even though cars get a little safer each year, and fatality rates are declining, car crashes are still one of the leading causes of death and injury in the United States.

Photo courtesy NHTSA

One of the reasons cars have been getting safer is because of a well-established testing program. In this edition of HowStuffWorks, you'll learn all about automotive crash testing, including crash test programs, ratings, dummies and future improvements. You'll be amazed at how much thought and preparation goes into making sure that safe cars are on the roads!