Safety advocates call for more female crash dummy tests

The star ratings for automobile safety tests don't usually put women in the driver's seat.
Written by Mary Catherine O'Connor, Contributing Writer

Government data shows that while men drive more than women, women are more likely to sustain injuries from a crash. But until 2011, crash test dummies the average height and weight of women weren't placed in the passenger seats during frontal crash tests that the federal government performs. And the female dummies still aren't placed in the driver's seat for these tests, reports The Washington Post. This has consumer advocates calling foul.

More alarming, they say, is that some tests reveal that automobiles that rated highly when male dummies were tested in the passenger seat do not appear to be as safe for females.

That reflects the findings of a 2011 study by the University of Virginia’s Center for Applied Biomechanics that the article cites. It found that "seat-belted female drivers in actual crashes had a 47 percent higher chance of serious injuries than belted male drivers in comparable collisions. For moderate injuries, that difference rose to 71 percent."

Advocates have for many years asked the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) to test more than average-sized male dummies in the tests used for the star-rating system, which is used to compare how cars' safety designs compare to one another.

The Post's Katherine Shaver writes: "They say those tests should take into account not only women but the increasing elderly and obese populations and larger children who have outgrown child safety seats. The tests, they say, also miss average women who fall between the 50th percentile male dummy, which stands 5-feet-9 and 172 pounds, and the unusually petite female dummy, which is 4-feet-11 and 108 pounds."

But Ronald Medford, NHTSA’s deputy administrator, told Shaver that female dummies are placed in the driver's seat during compliance testing, which tests whether cars meet the government’s minimum safety standards. The star-rating tests are designed to complement the compliance tests. But the public doesn't have access to the compliance test results.

He also noted that female test dummies are used in the driver's seat in 20-mph side crash tests. NHTSA says it doesn't use female dummies in the driver’s seat on the frontal crash test because "men drive more and die in greater numbers than female drivers."

Still, not including female dummies in star-rated driver tests limits the amount of safety information that's available to women, counter safety advocates. And designing cars to be safer for women is as important as designing them to be safe for men.

Via: The Washington Post

Image: Brady Holt

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