You have probably seen videos of crash test dummies being thrown against the windscreen in laboratory crash simulations. Have you ever wondered what sex those dummies are?
It turns out that the dummies used in testing are generally male. This is despite the fact that there are more female drivers than male drivers in the United States. In fact, the ones that are meant to represent females are still male, they’ve just made them a little smaller.
Aren’t dummies sexless?
Technically they are, but they are meant to replicate human bodies and so the human body they are based on matters. Think about something as simple as a seatbelt. It is not going to sit in the same way on a woman as a man due to anatomical differences. If it is only tested on and therefore optimized for the male body, that will affect its ability to restrain a female occupant of the seat, and where the forces that the belt exerts in crash fall on the female body.
Does it really matter?
Yes, it does. Figures show that women are 80% more likely to suffer lower leg injuries in a crash than men, 73 more likely to suffer severe injuries in a frontal crash, twice as likely to become trapped in the wreckage and 17% more likely to die.
The National Highway Transport Safety Administration has been aware of all this for a long time but has so far failed to make producing and using accurate female dummies a priority. Until they do, driving will continue to be far more dangerous for women than men.