Female crash dummies still not in the driving seat
When buying a car, safety is a key consideration.
So it’s not unreasonable to assume that safety scores promoted by car companies apply to everyone who might travel in the vehicle.
Well, it is if you’re a woman, apparently.
The US Government finally brought in the use of a female crash test dummy towards the end of 2010, but the subsequent test results have raised concerns about just how safe some cars are for women.
According to an article in the Washington Post, the 2011 Sienna suffered a drop from a five to two star rating on front passenger safety.
During a barrier collision at 35 mph the female dummy experienced a 20-40 per cent risk of serious injury or death. The previous average for that type of car was 15 per cent.
Requiring manufacturers to use a female dummy is a step in the right direction, and indeed some have been using it, along with a range of shapes and sizes, for many years.
But there are concerns about the size of the dummy which is just 4 foot, 11 inches and 108 pounds, a far cry from the average American women who is 5 feet 4 inches and 165 pounds.
Also, the female dummy is not tested in the driver’s seat. Whilst more male drivers die than female, they also drive 50 per cent more, meaning that the numbers of women killed and injured is disproportionately more than men.
Anna Carlsson of Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, stated in her recent thesis that “Since the mid-1960s, statistical data has shown that females have a higher risk of sustaining whiplash injuries than males…up to three times higher for the females.”
Ms Carlsson has developed a female crash dummy to represent the average woman.
‘Evarid’ (Eva Rear Impact Dummy) is based on the male crash dummy ‘Biorid’ that was developed at the end of the 1990s and is used worldwide.
“I hope that my research will lead to improved whiplash protection for both women and men when they are hit from behind in a collision.” said Carlsson.
But history suggests she may face opposition to her efforts to improve safety for women in cars.
Bloomberg.com ran a piece this week looking at the history behind the use of crash dummies in car safety testing.
Shockingly they report that “Although marketers had begun to account for the tastes of women as potential consumers well before the 1960s, many automakers claimed that considering women’s health in engineering was too radical. “
Whilst things have clearly moved on, it will be interesting to follow the progress of Carlsson’s prototype and how it is received by the automotive industry.
It urgently needs to take on board the safety of women passengers and drivers in their design, but it is unlikely that that will happen without proper and realistic test dummies in place.
On a related side note, whilst researching this article I was unable to ascertain whether or not female dummies are a required part of safety testing within Europe. Make of that what you will.