Congresswoman Urges NHTSA to Better Protect Women in Cars
In light of a recent study showing that women are more at risk of serious injury in car accidents because auto safety features are designed for men, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) is calling on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to make sure women are protected.
The study, by the American Journal of Public Health (AJPH), showed that women have a 47% greater chance of suffering severe injuries in car crashes as compared to men, even when wearing seat belts. It says that vehicle safety systems including seat belts and airbags do not offer adequate protection for smaller-framed drivers and passengers, and that a variety of factors could be at fault: vehicle safety systems may be designed for men because men are three times more likely to be involved in accidents than women; the design of seat belts and other restraints may not always take into account the proportions of women, who may be shorter, smaller-framed, or more curvaceous; and it may be that women’s bone structure and musculature make them more susceptible to injuries in a car accident than men.
CBS New York quotes Congresswoman Maloney: “This report suggests that women’s lives and safety have taken a backseat when it comes to the standards and the building of the automobiles.”
In a letter to NHTSA administrator David Strickland on Monday, Maloney asked, “What steps is NHTSA taking to encourage the design and implementation of vehicle-safety devices that could offer better protection to women?”
The congresswoman said if the agency does resolve this problem, she will introduce legislation to make women’s safety a priority.
As Jason Banrey reports in Queens Tribune,
‘Federal regulators need to investigate why women are experiencing higher rates of injury and come up with a plan to address the problem,’ Maloney wrote. […]
‘As the holiday travel season approaches, women need to know if they’re at greater risk in an accident,’ Maloney said. […]
‘The Federal government has done a great job of getting Americans to buckle up,’ said Maloney. ‘But now it needs to buckle down when it comes to correcting any disparity between women and men in auto safety.’ […]
The [ AJPH] study also revealed that recent changes to federal regulations on compliance testing push for using a small female dummy, but design modifications and performance testing of safety devices mostly rely on the midsized dummy for adult men.
According to a press release, Maloney is being joined in this effort by former congresswoman Elizabeth Holtsman and New York State Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh. Holtzman said, “Women shouldn’t have to take their lives in their hands when they get behind a wheel just because car safety systems were designed with men in mind….The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration needs to respond to this report’s findings promptly. I commend Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney for her concern about this problem.”
“Representative Maloney is highlighting a critical weakness in our safety system, which disproportionately affects women, and I’m proud to join her in calling for it to be addressed promptly,” Assemblyman Brian Kavanaugh said.
Maloney has served as the U.S. Representative for New York’s 14th congressional district (which includes most of Manhattan’s East Side; Astoria and Long Island City in Queens; and Roosevelt Island) since 1993.