Vehicle Crash Testing Overlooks Women
A study by Consumer Reports reviewed forty years of crash testing data and accident reporting from across the United States, to uncover a deep bias in the automotive testing industry. That is the fact that a crash test dummy represents an average man, and only an average man.
So what does that mean for women, who represent half of drivers on the road today? Auto manufacturers and testers may knowingly fail in their duty to protect female drivers and passengers as much as they could.
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Average Crash Test Dummies Show Bias
The standard crash test dummy is 5’9” and weighs 171 pounds. This is assumed to represent the 50th percentile male, though the dummy hasn’t been changed since the 1970’s. In 1980 regulators brought up the fact that a female dummy was needed. It took until 2003 for the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration to put a female dummy in the car. When they finally did, it was a dummy that represents only about 5% of women because it is so small. This dummy is so small, it can double as a 12-13-year-old child if needed. The dummy also takes no account for the differences in shape between male and female bodies.
Lastly, the female dummy is only included as a passenger in front collision tests, if it is included at all. Never is the car tested for front collision safety with a female dummy in the driver’s seat. Cars are not tested for the safety of a female driver whatsoever, and they are rarely adequately tested for the safety of a female passenger.
How Are Women Drivers at Risk?
The fact is that women are not just smaller versions of men. Women sit closer to the steering wheel, wear their seatbelts differently, and have differently shaped pelvises and weaker necks than men, among many other factors Consumer Reports called out in their findings. The result of automotive manufacturers and regulators ignoring this for decades has been many unnecessary wrongful deaths and injuries in accidents. For instance, females are three times more likely to suffer whiplash than men, but because of the failure to test cars for women, seats that have been designed in the last few years to try to prevent whiplash don’t work for female drivers. These same seats prevent over 70% of life-altering cases of whiplash in men. This is just one example of the way this bias can and does have permanent impact on individuals’ lives.
Ultimately, female drivers and right front passengers are 17% more likely to be killed than men of the same age during the same accident. Automotive manufacturers and regulators claim developing adequate dummies to test for female safety is too expensive, too time-consuming, or isn’t needed at all. We believe the duty to care for their consumers extends to every consumer regardless of gender, age, height, weight, or any other factors.