Mar 29, 2021
While women get in fewer car accidents than men in the United States, they are 73% more likely to be injured and 28% more likely to die, according to new data from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. One important reason for these numbers is that there is no crash test model representing the average female body used in car safety testing by federal regulators with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The NHTSA didn’t even start using a female-style model until 2003 and the model used, to this day, is 4’11", 108 pounds, roughly the size of a 12-year-old girl. However, the average woman in the U.S. is around 5’4", and 171 pounds. The model is also not built like female bodies: it’s a scaled-down version of its male counterpart, despite women and men having different spinal alignments, muscle strength, etc.
So what’s the deal with this huge disconnect between what real women’s bodies are and the child-like model version of a woman’s body that is still used today? A spokesperson for the Center for Automotive Research said the reason can be traced to “bad history.” That “bad history” is how society viewed AND treated women: as second class citizens. In the past, they were supposed to stay at home, keep house, and they weren’t supposed to drive. Stay at home, that is, if they weren’t forced to work because they had to!
But today, women make up 47% of the total U.S. labor force—nearly 77 million women in 2019. And women make up more than half of all licensed drivers.
So what’s the excuse for federal regulators of vehicle safety not to take this reality into consideration and step up the work to build and use more realistic female crash test dummies? Or for auto manufacturers not to lobby for this much needed change so they could design their vehicles to be safer for their millions of women customers?
There is none except for the fact that it would cost a lot of money. And the fact that this system still relegates women to second-class citizen status.