Why It Took Decades for a Female Crash-Test Dummy to Debut
Automakers for years fought to use only crash dummies modeled after the average American male.
Talk about breaking through the glass ceiling. Or, in this case, breaking through the windshield of a car in a crash test. After a half-century of debate on the topic, government regulators for the first time last year made female crash-test dummies a mandatory aspect of crash evaluations. Safety advocates have argued for years that designing cars to be crash-safe based solely on the anatomy of male occupants posed risks for smaller female occupants. Yet for decades automakers continued to use only dummies modeled after the average American male.
Smaller women are three times as likely as an average-sized male driver to be seriously injured in an accident, according to a recent opinion piece in Automotive News by Lee Jared Vinsel, assistant professor of science and technology studies at the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, N.J. Vinsel notes that front airbags are designed to strike occupants in the chest when they deploy, but smaller individuals can be hit in the chin instead, resulting in head and neck injuries.
Meanwhile, automakers have maintained that the average-sized test dummy is applicable to 95 percent of the driving population, and that the development of a smaller dummy would be too time-consuming and costly. Under the new requirements, car companies must use small female crash dummies in front collision evaluations for 2011 model-year vehicles and beyond. Vinsel says the long-overdue introduction of female-proportioned dummies “is the product of a long-held cultural resistance to considering gender differences in design.”
He points out that as far back as the late 1950s and early 1960s, the emerging U.S. consumer-safety movement reasoned that government regulation should focus on redesigning cars to make them safer -- and that the focus should not center solely on driver training and policing. The watershed moment was the publication of Ralph Nader’s 1965 book, "Unsafe at Any Speed," which focused consumer (and federal government) attention on the issue, leading to the passage of the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1966. This created the first nationwide automotive safety standards.
Car companies “fought the rules at each step,” Vinsel says, particularly against Standard 201, known as Interior Occupant Protection, which focused on what safety advocates called the "second collision” -- i.e. when occupants’ bodies collided with the interior of the vehicle.
The goal was to make the interior of the car safer. Compliance with Standard 201 required placing an anthropomorphic mannequin in a car to identify where it might strike the interior of the vehicle. Standard 201 initially required dummies of two different sizes: one represented a 95th percentile male (only 5 percent of the male population would be larger than the dummy) and a 5th percentile female (only 5 percent of the female population would be smaller).
But in 1973, due to automakers’ insistence that creating a second dummy was too complex and costly, federal regulators for the first time permitted using just one model as a part of safety standards. The mandated dummy, known as Hybrid II, represented the average American male. A female dummy didn't become a mandatory part of frontal crash tests until last year.
Vinsel contends that the new standards “have had a substantial impact on women's auto safety.” He also notes that if airbags are designed only for the average male, they’ll strike in the upper chest, but hit a small woman in the chin, snapping her head back and potentially leading to serious neck and spinal injuries. He adds that, according to tests with female mannequins, small women are almost three times as likely as their average male counterparts to be seriously injured or killed in an accident.
Vinsel writes, “Time and again, we are reminded that women still struggle to receive equal pay and treatment in the workplace. Women haven't received equal treatment in the design of the cars they drive, either -- and it may have had deadly results.”
I have driven a lot of safe miles commuting to work, hauling kids to activities, transporting elderly parents, etc. I'll bet I have had and caused fewer wrecks than most of you fellows.
HEY LOOK!!! The auto industry finally figured out what most of the population knows by the time they start Kindergarten. Brace yourselves ... this may come as a shock to you. Males and Females are different. See? I told you it would shock you.
I've spent all of my adult life wearing the seat belt under my left armpit because the effin thing does not take the female anatomy into account. "But that's not SAFE!" REALLY? yes, I know; but then neither is driving with the seat belt in front of your face .... which is where it migrates to if I wear it in the approved location.
First of all, from what I understand from doctors, (a female crashing in a car) is really rare.
If it’s a legitimate crash, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole car down.
But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something. I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the passenger and not on the driver or car manufacturer.
This might seem ridiculous unless you're five feet tall and roughly the size of a malnourished twelve year old like I am. It's really scary to think the airbag in my car might possibly paralyze me or worse because of the way it's designed. All the smaller women (or men) out there deserve a chance just as much as anyone else to survive a car crash.
I wonder how many of you would think it is so funny if you wife, daughter, or mother was killed because they didn't fit the seatbelt correctly, or the air bag that should protect them killed them instead. most of you would be first in line to file a lawsuit....to bad most of you making fun can't use your brain for a way to help instead, guess my dad was right it's a man world .... maybe why it's so missed up. bad form guys . billcccc your just upset because you can't get a good woman.
The idea that the 'male' version fits 95% of the human population is bunk, and was probably taken from an old poll made many years ago where, socially, Men were still primary sources of income and women were 'Homemakers." Thus Men made up the majority of those surveyed AT THE TIME.
Today, there has been a LARGE shift in the social structure, and women drive around as much as men do on average, if not more. Thus the average has changed. Since men have their own average height and women have their OWN average height, PLUS Differing body structures, a second dummy design is needed!
"Vinsel writes, “Time and again, we are reminded that women still struggle to receive equal pay and treatment in the workplace. Women haven't received equal treatment in the design of the cars they drive, either -- and it may have had deadly results.”
I smell a class action law suit....
Females just dont want to be left out of anything, let alone accidents...
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