Automobile crash tests aren’t just for men anymore.
The auto industry and federal safety agencies have started adding dummies modeled on women after taking notice that women and children, usually smaller than men, fare less well in accidents.
Starting in 2011, The Washington Post reported, the federal government began replacing its average-size male dummy with a smaller dummy in some tests.
For example, when a 2011 Toyota Sienna was slammed into a barrier at 35 mph, the female dummy in the front passenger seat had a 20 percent to 40 percent risk of being killed or seriously injured, according to the test report.
The average for the Sienna’s class of vehicle is a 15 percent risk.
The manager of GM’s test lab told ABC News that GM has invested $200,000 in 200 crash dummies. GM can simulate men, women and children of all sizes, as well as infants.
Linda Tram, spokesperson for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), told ABC News that studies show that women, with smaller bones and lower bone density, are at greater risk than men of suffering injury or death in crashes. Their less muscular necks make them more vulnerable to whiplash. In general, smaller people cannot tolerate crash forces as well as can full-sized men.
Russ Rader, spokesman for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, told ABC News: “One of the reasons we started using female dummies is the way women sit in a vehicle.” They tend, he said, to position their seats farther forward, to compensate for their smaller stature.
In general, experts told The Washington Post the smaller the person, the fewer crash forces the body can tolerate. When cars wrap around trees or utility poles, for example, smaller drivers and passengers suffer more head, abdominal and pelvic injuries but fewer chest injuries than average-size people, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Women’s less-muscular necks also make them more susceptible to whiplash, researchers say.
Government data from police reports also show women are at greater risk of being injured, especially when they’re not behind the wheel, the Post reported.
A 2011 study by the University of Virginia’s Center for Applied Biomechanics found that seat-belted female drivers in actual crashes had a 47 percent higher chance of serious injuries than belted male drivers in comparable collisions. For moderate injuries, that difference rose to 71 percent.
So before you buy in Elmira, Corning or anywhere in the Twin Tiers, find out what the dummies are revealing about your No. 1 choice. It doesn’t matter how much you love that vehicle. If it’s not safe, keep shopping!
In our next report, we’ll look at how you can learn more about the safest new vehicle models. Check back here soon!
Thanks for reading.