Iihs Mach E 2022 Crash Test 1667749056

Finally, Someone Came Up with a Decent Female Crash Test Dummy

  • Women are more likely to die or be injured in a crash, and one reason may be that we used crash test dummies based on the average man (as shown above).
  • When crash test companies wanted to represent women, they sometimes used a scaled-down male dummy, but soon they may be able to use a new, better-designed dummy, thanks to the Swedish National Road and Transport Research Institute.
  • Accidents do different things to the average male and female bodies, given size and muscle differences.

You can learn a lot from a dummy, especially if it is a better representation of the average woman. For decades, crash test dummies were based on the average male body size, which gave the average woman less protection in crashes. We’ve known about this since at least 2013 when the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration published a safety report that found women are more likely to be killed or injured in a crash and are especially “susceptible to neck and abdominal injuries.” The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) published a report in 2019 with similar findings.

One of the researchers whose name was on all those papers is Astrid Linder, director of traffic safety at the Swedish National Road and Transport Research Institute (known as VTI). Linder recently told the BBC about the work she and her team have done to develop a dummy that accurately mimics the average female body. This is not the first female dummy. For example, IIHS has been using female crash test dummies since 2003, and some crash test websites use scaled-down male dummies that inaccurately represent women. Linder said the one VTI developed is more than just a better size at five feet, three inches tall and weighing 97 pounds; the way it moves better represents how female bodies move in a collision, given their different muscle strengths.

Automotive safety engineers have also been working on solutions for the past decade. In 2012, researchers published a paper on neck injuries in crash tests using “a new female dummy prototype.” Work continued on crash dummies that better represented female bodies. For example, European researchers explored how better designed dummies could help with whiplash injuries (2017) and quickly moved on to a broader discussion of how more representative “resident models” would help more people in society (2019).

“We have differences in the shape of the torso and the center of gravity and the contours of our hips and pelvis,” Linder told the BBC.

Just because we now have a better way to test the impact of crashes on both male and female bodies doesn’t mean vehicle safety features will change tomorrow. No laws anywhere require crash tests to use male and female dummies, and engineers can’t fix problems they can’t identify. Some automakers already use gendered dummies in their crash tests, but Linder said she hopes their use becomes much more widespread. After all, she said, all segments of the population deserve to be safer in vehicles.

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