Female drivers at risk due to crash test bias

Local News

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Car manufacturing companies use crash test dummies to make sure cars meet the safety standards but the standard dummy used in tests is the size of an average man. That’s the only dummy typically required to be tested in the driver’s seat.

Forensic engineer and RIT professor, Marty Gordon, said the dummies being used don’t represent all of us.

“The federal crash test standards only require running the testing with a male dummy so that’s what the manufacturers do, so they’re designing to a male dummy,” said Gordon.

A female crash dummy does exist but Gordon said it’s not required to be used in the driver’s seat. It’s a fifth percentile female- around 4’11” and 110 pounds. The most commonly used dummy is a 50th percentile male- around 5’9″ and 170 pounds.

A 2019 study from the University of Virginia said a female passenger is 73 percent more likely to be injured in a frontal crash than a male passenger.

“Our vehicles are big our drivers are getting bigger it makes for an even bigger problem for females that tend to be smaller, lighter,” Gordon said.

He said the issue actually goes beyond male versus female.

“When these dummies were first designed our population was lighter and smaller so you could actually make the argument that a lot of these dummies, at least in the U.S., are outdated.”

Gordon said the federal government is likely aware of these concerns but changing the standards is a slow process.

“As we move on I think the agencies will update the regulations and update the testing because it’s not in anybody’s interest to have people killed or injured, costs a lot of money to the insurance industry, it costs the car manufacturers money, it cost the people involved in these accidents a lot of money and a lot of pain and suffering.”

The professor also said he believes crash tests should be done with a dummy in every seating position in the car.

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