A Female Crash Test Dummy Finally
It’s 2022 and cars are still designed for men, from the safety aspect at least. The world’s most widely used crash test dummy is the Hybrid III 50th Percentile Male Crash Test Dummy, and “he” weighs 78 kilogrammes and measures 5-foot 9-inches tall.
A scaled down version of the male test dummy, equivalent to a child, is often used to represent women in a crash test even though the average woman is about 20 kilogrammes lighter and some 4 inches shorter. But there are much more than height and weight differences to be considered—men and women have different muscle strengths, torso shape, centre of gravity, and hip and pelvis outline, and these affect how they are impacted differently in a car crash.
The numbers show that not taking into consideration gender differences in automotive safety has negative consequences. A study by the NHTSA in USA found that women are three times more likely to suffer whiplash injury from a rear impact compared to men. Another recent study found that women are twice as likely as men to be trapped in the car following a crash.
Another example of why gender considerations in designing a car is important is the problem with airbags. The very feature that is supposed to save lives have on numerous occasions been the cause of death in low-speed crashes. Airbags are deployed with enough force to keep the 50th Percentile Male Crash safe, but the same amount of force could injure, maybe kill, a female.
But good news have come from Sweden as Dr Astrid Linder (pictured above), the Director of Traffic Safety at the National Road and Transport Research Institute, has been leading a research team to develop a crash test dummy that more accurately represents women’s bodies.
The new dummy is 5 feet 3 inches tall and weighs 62 kilogrammes, and was designed with emphasis on the shape of the chest and lower joint stiffness. According to Dr Linder, females have less muscles and a lower total strength, which correspond to the lower joint stiffness.
The female representation has a fully flexible spine, so crash testers can look at what happens to the entire spine when a woman is injured in a car crash; sensors and transducers can measure the force exerted on each part of the dummy. The team led by Dr Linder focused on low severity rear impact collision tests because women tend to suffer more from whiplash.
While it is great news that an accurate representation of the female body is available for crash testing, there is no law yet that requires car manufacturers to test their vehicles with both male and female dummies. Lawmakers in USA, UK and EU have been pushing for legislation to make female dummy-crash tests mandatory, but the road ahead is still a long one.