Here’s an interesting (read, ghoulish) article to accompany the one about crash test dummies from earlier.
How dead bodies save lives every day on the road
But to get the really good data, they had to push past the limits of human endurance. And since it was illegal to kill a grad student—yes, even back then—that meant getting access to some dead bodies. […]
Bodies were slammed, smashed and thrown from deceleration sleds by grateful grad students who were no longer subjected to the same tests themselves. At testing’s height in 1966, cadavers were used once a month. The data they gathered was used to write the “Wayne State Tolerance Curve,” still used to this day to calculate the amount of force required to cause head injuries in a car crash. […]
These days, only a couple of cadavers a year are used in testing at Wayne State, but they are still needed to perfect the next generation of crash test dummy. A lot more industry-wide effort is now put into preventing crashes in the first place—think automatic braking and lane change warning lights—rather than keeping car occupants safe. But the need for human bodies still occasionally arises.