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Do You Look Like a Crash Test Dummy?

3 minute read

A 2011 study conducted by the University of Virginia’s Center for Applied Biomechanics highlighted the need for crash test dummies that have bodies with female sex characteristics to be used.  

Some of us know about car safety ratings and we know that they come from crash results using crash test dummies. However, these dummies are based on bodies with a traditional male body type.

Now, you may be wondering why this is a problem; after all, a body is a body. Well, the research from the 2011 study concluded that people who have bodies with female sex traits that wore a seat belt were 71% more likely to be injured in a crash than bodies with male sex traits in the same circumstances.

By focusing on bodies with male attributes, crash test researchers have inadvertently missed 50% of the population.

Female body types tend to be smaller and lighter than male body types, resulting in more movement during a crash. Seat belt placement and the distance between the occupant and airbags also tend to differ between male and female figures. As a result, crash tests using dummies that have bodies with male sex characteristics exclusively are not representative of the larger population and therefore cannot be generalised.

Fortunately, the Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) began the implementation of crash test dummies that have bodies with female sex characteristics in 2018, and those results are now being factored into their current safety ratings.

This is where things tend to get a bit jumbled. ANCAP uses the female form dummy for their full-width frontal crash tests because the smaller form is more likely to be injured in these types of crashes. Whereas the male figure dummy is used for side pole impact crashes because they are overrepresented in those incidents.

ANCAP is also waiting on the development of another crash test dummy of the female form that is further advanced to demonstrate the effects on the body of side-impact crashes.

However, to make up for this, and other imbalances, what they classify as an injury and how severe it is, is determined by data from of both sexes.

It’s clear that there are still gaps in crash testing, but that does not seem to be through a lack of trying. For now, it simply isn’t feasible to test every body type in every crash scenario, but this is the end goal. Findings from these new crash tests have the ability to change not only the way that safety is assessed, but also how new features are developed. This should hopefully lead to safer outcomes on the roads for everyone.

It should also be noted that this does not mean that seatbelts and other safety measures in cars are not effective. Wearing a seatbelt has the potential to reduce your chance of serious injury by nine times. Further, airbags have the potential to reduce fatalities by 40%.

So, for now, if you have a body with female sex characteristics, it’s best to do some further research on the safety rating of the car you are choosing, because there’s a good chance that those little stars might not be about you.

Sources: 1|2|3|4

Thank you to ANCAP for talking to us about their procedures.  

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