Women Suffer More Serious Crash Injuries Because Test Dummies are Male
Many of the victims of car, truck, and motorcycle accidents in Virginia are women. Every week, Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers signs up women as clients after they suffered serious injuries in auto accidents in Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Newport News, and elsewhere in the state.
It sometimes seems as if women are disproportionately affected by car wrecks, suffering more acute injuries, even though men are more likely to cause crashes. Unfortunately, this perception is backed by statistics.
Why Are Women More Likely to Suffer Injuries?
A recent opinion article in The Washington Post by Susan Molinari and Beth Brooke raises some disturbing but little-known facts about automobile accidents. Notwithstanding, changes in recent decades, we still live in a world designed for men. Molinari and Brooke point out the top shelves of many stores are too high for women to reach and even many cellphones are too large for women to grasp easily.
These kinds of inequalities are unlikely to be life-threatening. The gender of crash test dummies is a different story. The article points out most crash test dummies are designed around the male body. Even many so-called “female” crash dummies are merely smaller versions of male crash dummies. This anachronism is more serious than it appears. Crash test dummies are used extensively in the testing of new cars. Molinari and Brooke argue the lack of female crash test dummies means automobiles are not designed to protect women in the same way as men.
They highlight statistics that show while men are more likely to cause crashes, women are more likely to die or suffer serious injuries in them. A study conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reveals women are 17 percent more likely to die in car wrecks and 73 percent more likely to suffer serious injuries, according to the University of Virginia. Could crash test dummies be a factor? Molinari and Brooke believe so.
They point out when the crash test dummy was originally standardized in the mid-1970s, its proportions were based on an average-size man.
“But women’s and men’s bodies are different. Women have different bone density, and our abdomens occupy a different position in most car seats than men’s do. As a result, women are more likely to sit closer to the steering wheel and suffer from severe whiplash in an accident,” the authors state.
Technology has moved on since the 1970s. A new generation of dummies can more effectively replicate men’s and women’s unique physiology. A new generation of female crash dummies has sensors in their abdomens and pelvis to gauge the impacts of seat belts during a wreck. This data could result in a more female-friendly car design. It could help reduce rib fracture injuries often experienced by women during crashes.
Given the availability of female crash test bodies, using them widely in tests should be a no-brainer. However, the voluntary program administered by NHTSA to give consumers vehicle safety ratings only requires the use of male dummies in the driver seat in several of its key crash tests. In other words, a five-star safety rating for a car, SUV, or truck means it was highly rated for an average-sized 5-foot-9-inch, 170-pound man. There is less information available about the effects of these forces on a smaller and lighter woman. Molinari and Brooke argue this makes many popular cars less safe for women.
NHTSA can require both male and female dummies to be tested in the driver’s seat. However, the agency has chosen not to do so to date.
This omission seems inexplicable given the present crisis on our roads. The number of road deaths is rising steadily and is projected to top 40,000 in 2021. Fatalities soared a staggering 18% in the first six months of the year.
Molinari, a Republican who served in the U.S. House for seven years and Brooke, a former global vice chair of public policy at a multinational professional services firm, argue federal regulators knew about the additional risk female drivers and passengers faced for decades. However, while the NHTSA has been researching and testing a female dummy for almost 15 years, the agency “inexplicably continues to insist that more research is needed before it can make a decision.”
In the meantime, more women are paying for this inertia in terms of deaths and serious injuries in Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Norfolk, and elsewhere. The longer the agency waits, the more women are being hurt or killed on the road.