January 6, 2020

Women are More At Risk In Car Crashes Because Vehicles Are Not Designed for Them


Last Fall Consumer Reports revealed that although most Americans killed in car crashes are male, data shows that it is fact women that are at a greater risk of death or serious injury in a car crash. A female driver or front row passenger with a seatbelt is 17 percent more likely to die, and 73 percent more likely to have a serious injury.

Crash researchers have known for forty years that the bodies of male and female react differently in crashes,  but automotive research still stubbornly clings to the “50th percentile male” which is understood to be a 171 pound 5 foot 9 inch dummy  first developed in the 1970’s. And that crash test dummy has not substantially changed, despite the fact that the average American man weighs 26 pounds more.

It was not until 2003 that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) used a scaled down male dummy to represent a woman. This dummy was so scaled down that it also could double as a 13 year old child. It is a 5th percentile crash dummy as even to  1970’s standards it represented only 5 percent of women.

Crash tests do not recognize that  half the drivers in the United States are now female. The 5th percentile female crash dummy rides as a passenger, not a driver. As Consumer Reports writer Keith Barry states “Because automotive design is directly influenced by the results of safety testing, any bias in the way cars are crash-tested translates into the way cars are manufactured. So if safety tests don’t prioritize female occupants, carmakers won’t necessarily make changes to better protect them.”

Automotive safety relies on regulation to do the right thing. Using crash dummies that are not smaller models of male dummies is the first step, along with recognizing that women’s  structures are different than men’s. Today’s average female is five inches shorter and 27 pounds lighter than the average male, and wear seatbelts differently and sit closer to the steering console.

While there is a new generation of dummies coming, there is still no plan to build an average female for crash tests. Called THOR (Test Device for Human Occupant Restraint) these new models are due to be used in Europe this year for testing and will collect more data than previous crash test dummies.

“Astrid Linder, Ph.D., a professor at Chalmers University in Sweden and the research director of traffic safety at the Swedish National Road and Transport Institute, agrees that the length of time it could take to build a new female dummy is frustrating, but she says that is not an excuse for delaying the work further. This was the answer I got 20 years ago when I did a review as a Ph.D. student,” she says. “There is no data that isn’t possible to collect. Go ahead and do it. We know how to do it.”

Imagine~politicians and policy makers have an opportunity to create a crash test female dummy that could save lives and serious injury . Regulators could insist that they be used in crash tests.

What is stopping them?

The YouTube video below is Astrid Lindner’s TEDx talk where she describes her work and introduces the audience to EVA the female crash test dummy developed in Sweden.



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  1. You’re not thinking like an insecure and overly-defensive male research administrator, Sandy. Try on a pair of their terrified shoes and it all makes perfect sense. ‘If everyone just shuts up about this whole ‘women are different’ thing, I can go back to doing my job that way I think it should be done.’

    Just ask Terry Gilliam how terribly burdensome and difficult it is being a straight white male in today’s society. They are the only ones who have ever known what they are doing, and to question the wisdom of their established practices is irresponsible, unpatriotic, and nothing short of a hate crime against God. In fact, in the whole history of the world, no group has ever been as discriminated against or trod upon. It is hard to be so unappreciated. They want accolades, Sandy, not criticism from a woman.

  2. This post should mention airbags, esp. those made by Takata. There are 120 million of these ticking time bombs out there.
    Good luck finding out if your vehicle has one of these ready to blow up. Good luck getting them replaced.
    Women and children are disproportionately at risk from airbags, though they should scare the crap out of everyone. The big feature of my old car is that it was the last year you could buy one without airbags. Hate those things. Safety gone mad.
    Airbags are one of the biggest profit makers in vile venal motordom.
    Vehicles are often broken into to steal airbags. How does motordom feel about that?
    Gee, replace the airbag and the broken glass, clean up the vehicle … ka-ching, ka-ching, ka-ching. Thousands of dollars wasted. And the resale value of older cars with airbags. You’re nuts to buy one.
    For safety, how about not sucking on a coffee, chewing on crap, blah blah blahing – pay attention when you drive.
    Last week, when I took the Knight Street to Richmond, in poor weather, focused like a laser, it struck me that people thought (think) they could drive and use a phone at the same time. Really? Really? Plus they want to smoke; with their window partly down; flicking ashes out; then the burning butt.

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