Since the 1970s, crash test dummies - mechanical surrogates of the human body - have been used to determine car safety. The technology is used to estimate the effectiveness of seatbelts and safety features in new vehicle designs. Until now the most commonly used dummy has been based on the average male build and weight.
However, women represent about half of all drivers and are more prone to injury in like-for-like accidents. When a woman is in a car crash, she is up to three times more likely to suffer whiplash injuries in rear impacts in comparison with a man. Although whiplash is not usually fatal, it can lead to physical disabilities - some of which can be permanent. Currently there is no legal requirement for car safety tests for rear impact collisions to be carried out on anything other than the average man. The dummy that is sometimes used as a proxy for women is a scaled-down version of the male one, roughly the size of a 12-year-old girl. At 149cm tall (4ft 8ins) and weighing 48kg (7st 5lb), it represents the smallest 5% of women by the standards of the mid-1970s.
A team of Swedish engineers has finally developed the first dummy, or to use the more technical term - seat evaluation tool - designed on the body of the average woman. Astrid Linder, the director of traffic safety at the Swedish National Road and Transport Research Institute, is leading the research in Linköping. Their dummy is 162cm (5ft 3ins) tall and weighs 62kg (9st 7lbs), more representative of the female population. Dr Linder believes her research can help shape the way cars are specified in the future and she stresses the key differences between men and women. Females are shorter and lighter than males, on average, and they have different muscle strengths. Because of this they physically respond differently in a car crash. She explained women have differences in the shape of the torso and the centre of gravity and the outline of the hips and pelvis. The average female dummy in Linköping has a fully flexible spine, which means the team can look at what happens to the whole spine, from the head to the lower back, when a woman is injured. By measuring those injuries, they can then have safer cars with safer airbags, with safer seatbelts, with safer occupant compartments that allow for different sizes.
Dr Linder will still need regulators to enforce the use of the average female she has developed. The UN is examining its regulations on crash testing and will determine whether they need to be changed to better protect all drivers. If changes are made to involve a crash test dummy representing the average female, there is an expectation that women will one day be safer behind the wheel.
You can read more on the original article here: The crash dummy aimed at protecting women drivers - BBC News
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