The University of Virginia recently published a study that focused on automotive safety and technology. Their findings showed that all crash test dummies are not created equal, and most motor vehicle safety tests only use crash test dummies that are modelled after men. This study seems to suggest that women are more likely to suffer severe or fatal injuries from car accidents in comparison to men.
What the Numbers Showed
The researchers controlled certain factors like age, body mass index, height, the vehicle’s age, and crash severity when examining injuries that took place between 1998 and 2015. The 31,000 occupants were wearing three-point seatbelts and were involved in almost 23,000 head-on crashes. They divided the results into two groups; automobiles built before and after the year 2009.
Even though the probability of sustaining a serious or fatal injury in the newer vehicles is 55 percent lower than older models, the odds of females experiencing significant or fatal injuries is 73 percent higher than the probability for males to experience these injuries. Females are also more vulnerable to abdominal, spine, and leg injuries.
Interpreting the Data
According to researchers at the University of Virginia’s Center for Applied Biomechanics, reasons for this discrepancy remain unclear. One reason may be the fact that most standard crash test dummies were designed decades ago to represent the average 50th-percentile male.
Although a female dummy was created in the early 2000s, it is 108 pounds and under five feet high, resembling a fifth-percentile woman. The female dummy does not reflect the difference in women’s fat distribution, bone density, or muscle strength. It was also noted that women’s menstrual cycles can affect their joints and ligaments, making them stiffer and more prone for injuries.
More Lifelike Dummies
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety conducts between 60 to 70 crash tests each year and has done over 1,300 crash tests since the 1990s. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that work is underway on more lifelike dummies but at a cost of around several million dollars each; it may be awhile before they are widely used.
Developing crash test dummies is a lengthy process, they are quite sophisticated; the newer models can have around 150 different data points. They are designed to closely represent different parts of the human body, including an Achilles heel and complex neck assemblies. There is also the option of 3D-printed and virtual crash test dummies. Some companies are already implementing this technology, like Volvo.
Equal Vehicles for All
Auto manufacturer Volvo also conducted research on this topic and found that females are at a higher risk for being injured compared to males. Their project, Equal Vehicles for All, was created to address the gender gap in auto safety, and they will be sharing their findings with other automakers. A professor and technical specialist at the Volvo Cars Safety Centre, said that there is a significant problem with inequality in the safety development of cars.
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