A Long-Sought Change for Crash-Test Dummies

Swedes develop first one tailored to females
By Mike L. Ford,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 6, 2022 10:58 AM CST
A Long-Sought Change for Crash-Test Dummies
It's currently a boys' world in regard to crash-test dummies, but that's changing.   (Getty/twilightproductions)

It wouldn't be accurate to say automakers and crash-test regulators have never considered women or women's anatomy. In fact, per a decade-old report from the Washington Post, the NHTSA started testing female crash dummies back in 2003. However, those "female" dummies were simply scaled-down versions of the standard male dummies that have been used for decades. At 4'8" and 105 pounds, they’re the size of an average 12-year-old child and representative of about 5% of the actual female population. But as the BBC reports, engineers at Sweden’s National Road and Transport Institute have created the world’s first crash dummy—or "seat evaluation tool" if you prefer—more representative of the average female in weight, height, and anatomy. (See the BBC link for an image.)

Numerically speaking, men have always been far more likely to die or suffer serious injuries in car wrecks, according to stats from the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety. This is because men tend to log more hours behind the wheel, and they’re more apt to engage in risky driving behaviors. However, due to differences in size and musculature, women are three times more likely to suffer whiplash and other nonfatal but nonetheless damaging injuries. Those stats drove Swedish researcher Astrid Linder to make female crash dummies her life’s work.

Linder's current research focuses specifically on low-intensity rear impacts, which are most likely to cause whiplash. Speaking to NPR, she emphasized that seat design can make a big difference in crash results due to differences in women’s body shape and center of gravity. As to why it’s taken so long for anyone to design a representative female dummy, Linder blames gender bias in a regulatory space dominated by men. "I would never say that anybody does it intentionally, but it's just the mere fact that it's typically a male decision," she told the BBC, which notes that engineers elsewhere in the world are developing a more diverse dummy population to include babies, elderly, and overweight people. (Read more crash test dummies stories.)

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