The trend in Colorado shows an increase in auto accident deaths of female passengers, especially among younger drivers.

Crash Tests May Fail to Detect Auto Accident Hazards Particular to Women

Their official name is anthropomorphic test devices (ATDs), but to the general public, they are crash test dummies. Created 65 years ago, these “dummies” are high-tech replicas of humans used to study impacts on bodies involved in auto accidents. One goal of using these dummies is to provide information so vehicles can be better designed for safety. However, a leading consumer advocate publication has found that women are being overlooked in research using crash-test dummies, putting them at risk.

Not All Dummies Are Alike

In a thorough study of vehicle test dummies, Consumer Reports found that the structure of these devices is based on a male passenger; the female version is just a scaled-down version of a male passenger. As CR highlights, the average female crash test dummy doesn’t even exist, even though safety officials have known for years that crash impacts affect women differently than men.

The oversight has gained attention because of the glaring statistic revealed in a University of Virginia study that shows women are 73 percent more likely than men to be seriously injured in a frontal crash. A woman is also 17 percent more likely than a man to be killed in a car accident. When it comes to the crash dummies, a male version resembles that of half of the male population, meaning someone who is 5-foot-9 and 171 pounds. However, the female version represents only a small fraction of women, as the dummy is only 4-foot-11 and 108 pounds. There has been some discussion of more accurately portraying women in crash tests. Still, safety officials say women today are closer to resembling the male test dummy being used, and since the life-size replicas are incredibly complex and expensive to build, it would be impossible to have all body types and sizes represented. So for now, safety officials will continue using the dummies they have.

Gender Gap Is Narrowing

On average, according to the Department of Transportation (DOT), men of all ages drive 1,400 miles per month versus 850 miles per month for women. Colorado has more than three million licensed drivers, and annually, those drivers commute on average of 13,443 miles per year. Since many more men than women drive in this country, it’s not surprising that more men are injured and killed in crashes than women, but that gap, according to national trends, is narrowing. The trend in Colorado shows an increase in deaths of female passengers, especially among younger drivers. When it comes to injuries, men in the state were more likely to be hospitalized following an accident with one exception: those 65 and older. For that age group, male and female passengers were not that far apart when it came to hospitalizations.

There is some encouraging news on the horizon when it comes to vehicle testing, gender, and injuries associated with crashes. Carmaker Volvo is using data it has been collecting since 1950 to design vehicles for safety, taking into consideration the different crash impacts on men and women. The manufacturer says it will make all that data available for others, with the goal that all carmakers can meet the highest safety standards for all passengers regardless of gender.

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