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Since the 1970s, scientists have used crash test dummies to evaluate how auto collisions affect human passengers. The technology measures the effectiveness of seatbelts, airbags, and other vehicle design features. The standard dummy has always been based on the average male in weight and build. Scaled-down versions have approximated women, but they’ve had the same proportions as the "male" dummy, just on a much smaller scale – approximately the size of a 12-year-old girl.
Until recently, these crash dummies have little resembled typical women drivers, even though they make up half of all vehicle users and are statistically more likely to be injured in most accidents. Swedish engineers have led the charge to create the first dummy (technically known as a seat evaluation tool) based on the proportions of a more typical female body. They can now measure how things like torque, braking rate, and impact affect men and women differently. Yet although some car manufacturers have already adopted female dummies in their crash testing, they are not yet a part of mandatory regulations in North America or Europe.
Making cars safer for everyone:
- The new Swedish standard for women crash test dummies is 5 feet 3 inches tall (162 cm) and weighs about 136 pounds (62 kg). The mini-me male dummies of the past 50 years, supposedly representing female passengers, were only 4 feet 8 inches tall (149 cm) and weighed about 105 pounds (48 kg).
- Women tend to be shorter and lighter than men and have different muscle strengths. “We have differences in the shape of the torso and the center of gravity and the outline of our hips and pelvis," explained Astrid Linder of the Swedish National Road and Transport Research Institute, who led the team that designed the female dummy.
- A woman is about three times more likely to suffer whiplash injuries in rear impacts than a man. Women are 73% more likely to get severely injured in a head-on collision and 17% more likely to die in a car crash than men.
- To better protect all car passengers, engineers are now creating dummies to represent babies, the elderly, and overweight people.