Crash Test Dummies Are Male, and It's Killing Women

Op-ed in the 'Washington Post' argues that it's time to change the standards
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 22, 2021 2:12 PM CST
Crash Test Dummies Are Male, and It's Killing Women
   (Getty Images)

(Newser) – The crash test dummies used by car manufacturers help keep us safe—though that "us" refers largely to the adult male population. In an op-ed for the Washington Post, Susan Molinari and Beth Brooke explain that when crash test dummies were standardized more than 40 years ago, those standards were based on the male frame. Fast-forward to today, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration continues to just require that male dummies sit in the driver seat during a number of its crash tests. "As a result, a five-star safety rating for a car or truck means it was highly rated for a 5-foot-9-inch, 170-pound man," they write. Thing is, women's bodies are different, and not just in terms of size—and the impact on accidents is different on them too.

Their bone density isn't the same, and where their abdomen is positioned in the car seat isn't the same. Studies have shown that female crash victims are 17% more likely to die than their male counterparts and 73% more likely to be seriously injured, despite the fact men cause more crashes. Female dummies do exist—high-tech ones with extra sensors in the abdomen, pelvis, and face—and test results on them "could inform adjustments to car design at the seat belts, headrests, air bags, pedals, and more." But, again, that's not required, and "it makes no sense," Molinari and Brooke write. "And until the standard changes, more than half the population will continue to pay the price." So what would the price of upgrading the requirements be? In their telling, it would up the cost of a new car by less than a dollar. (Read the full piece.)

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