It may surprise you to learn that it wasn’t until 2003 that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) began to sometimes use female crash test dummies when simulating crashes to determine the safety of vehicles.
Why does it matter whether female crash test dummies are used? Well, because as explained in the ABC.com article, women’s bodies react differently during car accidents than men’s:
The reason for using female dummies is simple, says Lynda Tran, spokesperson for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA): Studies show that women, having smaller bones and lower bone density, are at greater risk than men of suffering injury or death in crashes. Their less muscular necks make them more vulnerable to whiplash. In general, smaller people cannot tolerate crash forces as well as can full-sized men.
So, it only makes sense that when automakers or governmental agencies like the NHTSA test vehicles to determine crashworthiness, both male and female dummies should used.
However, although things have improved somewhat, male dummies are still the norm, especially when it comes to determining the safety of the driver versus the passenger. In that situation, as discussed in the ABC.com article, male dummies are still the most tested and there is, therefore, far less data available regarding how automobile crashes affect women drivers:
(A)ny woman trying to use Safercar.gov to determine in which car she would be safest as the driver (as compared to passenger) is in for a frustrating experience: Two out of the three of the NHTSA’s test situations presume the driver to be male: In the head-on crash and the crash into a side barrier, it’s a male dummy behind the wheel. Data for a female driver is not provided. Only in the third test situation–a side crash into a pole–is the driver female.
So, while we’ve made some strides to protect women who travel in automobiles, far more needs to be done. After all, women make up more than 50% of the population, so shouldn’t at least 50% of the crash test dummies used to test the safety of cars be comprised of female crash test dummies? It only makes sense and women deserve to know whether a particular car will protect them in the even of a car accident, don’t they?