Gender Inequality

Can the world’s first female crash test dummy make driving safer for women?

Scientists in Sweden have produced the world’s first female crash test dummy that reflects the differences between the male and female anatomy.

Scientists in Sweden have produced the world’s first female crash test dummy that reflects the differences between the male and female anatomy. Image: Unsplash/Jan Baborák

Johnny Wood
Writer, Forum Agenda
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Gender Inequality

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  • Vehicle crash tests are only legally required to use dummies shaped like the average man.
  • Scientists in Sweden have produced the world’s first female crash test dummy that reflects the differences between the male and female anatomy.
  • The new dummies could change how future cars, driver seats and other vehicle safety features are designed, making roads safer for female drivers.

Crash-test dummies have been driving into walls for more than 50 years to improve road safety.

Using models to resemble people and mimic how the human body reacts to different vehicle impacts has helped inform the development of vehicle safety features like airbags, seatbelts and seat designs.

But there’s a problem.

Until now, the dummies – or ‘seat evaluation tools’ to give them their technical name – most commonly used in impact tests have the same dimensions as an average man from the 1970s.

Now a team of researchers from Sweden has developed the world’s first crash test dummy modelled on the average female body.

The female crash test dummy

Surely a body is a body you may think, why does this matter?

It matters because, on average, females are shorter and lighter than males, with different muscle strengths, torso, hip and pelvis shapes to men.

And these differences can significantly change how our bodies react to the impact of a car crash, the BBC reports. Women in the US are three times more likely to incur injuries from whiplash if the car they are travelling in is hit from behind, for example.

Researchers at the Swedish National Road and Transport Research Institute in Linköping, led by Dr Astrid Linder, have developed a female crash test dummy that better reflects the differences between male and female anatomy.

At 162cm tall and weighing in at 62kg, the newly developed mannequin has the same dimensions as an average woman today, which should give more accurate crash test data and help improve vehicle safety for women.

Close to 13,000 female drivers were killed in car crashes in the US in 2020. The news female crash test dummy should give more accurate crash test data and help improve vehicle safety for women.
Close to 13,000 female drivers were killed in car crashes in the US in 2020. The news female crash test dummy should give more accurate crash test data and help improve vehicle safety for women. Image: Statista.

Bringing equality to the road

Almost 13,000 female drivers were killed in car crashes in the US in 2020, and the number of male and female drivers involved in fatal crashes has increased by roughly 8% since 2015.

Introducing representative female-shaped dummies could help inform how future cars, driver seats and other vehicle safety features are designed, making roads safer for female drivers.

While Linder’s team have highlighted the benefits of a more diverse range of crash test dummies aimed at increasing road safety for women, babies and the elderly, there are some regulatory hurdles to overcome before gender and age diverse dummies are introduced.

Current legislation in places like the US and EU only requires male seat evaluation tools to be used in crash tests. However, including more representative crash dummies in vehicle tests is not only good for road safety - but also helps boost gender equality.

"My hope for the future is that the safety of vehicles will be assessed for both parts of the population," Linder told the BBC.

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