Why the lack of female crash test dummies puts real women at risk
Crash test dummies have long been used to assess how vehicles and their safety features are likely to protect (or not protect) people in various types of collisions. For most of that time, these dummies have been “male” – in other words, built to resemble the size of an average man.
More recently, “female” dummies have been developed. However, it might be surprising to learn that they aren’t used in crash tests anywhere near as frequently as their larger male counterparts and sometimes aren’t even placed in the driver’s seat.
That’s concerning for many reasons – not the least of which is that women have a greater chance of being injured or killed in a collision than men do. They’re also more “susceptible to neck and abdominal injuries,” according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
Why more realistic dummies are needed
Safety advocates continue to push for greater use of these female crash test dummies – and also for more realistic ones. They argue that the female dummies shouldn’t just be scaled-down versions of the male models.
Other differences that are relevant to how people suffer injuries in crashes can be incorporated into these dummies. For example, women generally have less muscle mass and a lower center of gravity than men do, and they’re often shorter in stature.
Although female crash test dummies have been around for about 20 years, it was just last year that Swedish researchers announced they had developed a more realistic female dummy.
A shortage of funding
As with most things, the cost of creating new and more realistic female dummies is cited as a chief reason why the federal government hasn’t been able to require more testing with them. Some money has been added to the NHTSA budget. In a statement, NHTSA acknowledged that “gender disparities in outcomes of traffic crashes are unacceptable….”
While there’s not a lot that most of us can do to increase the use of more (and more realistic) female crash test dummies, the discussion around them and greater research can help people understand that men and women can be in the same crash in the same vehicle and suffer very different injuries.