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Car Crashes Catch Up on Equality With Female Test Dummies

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A photo of a yellow crash test dummy strapped into a car.

For more than 70 years, crash test have always been carried out on men.
Photo: Jim Watson/AFP (Getty Images)

Sure, the first male crash test dummy was introduced in 1949, the first child-sized mannequin came along in 1994 and there was even a crash test moose in use earlier this year. But, there hasn’t been a representative female crash test dummy since testing began. Until now.

Finally, a full 73 years after we started using crash test dummies to find out how safe a car is for its occupants, we’ve actually got a female mannequin to put through its paces. Up until this point, researchers were using a scaled down version of the male test unit, which is roughly in line with the proportions of a 12-year-old-girl.

A photo of scientist Astrid Linder and the representative female crash test dummy.

Astrid Linder led the team that developed the new female crash test dummy.
Photo: The Norwegian Road and Transport Research Institute

Predictably, this led to more incidents of injury for women involved in car crashes in the real world. And, despite representing around half of all people involved in accidents, women account for a much larger percentage of people injured in collisions.

Now, researchers will finally be able to find out how a woman’s body is affected by a crash, as the BBC reports that researchers in Sweden have created a testing dummy that actually reflects most women. According to the BBC:

“A team of Swedish engineers has finally developed the first dummy, or to use the more technical term – seat evaluation tool – designed on the body of the average woman.

“Their dummy is 162cm (5ft 3ins) tall and weighs 62kg (9st 7lbs), more representative of the female population.”

The dummy has been developed at a Swedish testing lab lead by Astrid Linder, the director of traffic safety at the Swedish National Road and Transport Research Institute. The BBC report adds:

“Dr Linder believes her research can help shape the way cars are specified in the future and she stresses the key differences between men and women. Females are shorter and lighter than males, on average, and they have different muscle strengths.

“Because of this they physically respond differently in a car crash.”

Now that the dummy has been developed, legislators will need to tweak their testing requirements to enforce its use.

First crash test dummy designed to protect women – BBC News

As it stands, the BBC says there is “no legal requirement for car safety tests for rear impact collisions to be carried out on anything other than the average man.” This applies to both EU and U.S. testing requirements.

It’s a step in the right direction, but there’s a whole heap more male-focused research and data that needs addressing next. If you want to find out more about everyday sexism in the world, I highly recommend reading Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez – some of it is truly shocking.

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