The first crash test dummy designed to mimic a woman’s body has finally been developed by a team of Swedish researchers, hoping to end the long history of man-centric safety in cars. Standing at an average height of 162 centimeters (5 feet 3 inches) and weighing 62 kilograms (137 pounds), the dummy will look to replace current methods, which woefully misrepresent a woman’s body in almost every dimension.
In the 1970s, the development of the crash test dummy revolutionized car safety. Suddenly, car manufacturers could quite literally smash their designs into concrete walls and measure the impacts on the human body, a test that not many actual humans were willing to partake in. Since then, these crash test dummies have become more advanced and more representative of a human body – well, a male body, at least.
This is exactly where the problem lies. It might surprise you to know that crash test dummies are always either male, or children, and women in the car are often just represented by a smaller version of the male dummy. The mini-man dummy is about the size of a twelve-year-old girl, at just 149 cm (4 ft 8 ins) tall. In the eyes of car manufacturers, people are either men, or children.
Sadly, this has real-world impacts on car safety. A study from the University of Virginia discovered that women were significantly more likely than men to get injured in a car accident while sitting in the front seat. Additionally, they are almost three times more likely to suffer whiplash in an accident compared to a male counterpart, both of which are likely due in part to the male bias in safety technology.
"We know from injury statistics that if we look at low severity impacts females are at higher risk,” said lead researcher Astrid Linder in a statement to the BBC.
"So, in order to ensure that you identify the seats that have the best protection for both parts of the population, we definitely need to have the part of the population at highest risk represented.”
The researchers hope that this new dummy will allow that gap to be closed by improving representation for women in car safety research. Before that can happen, though, Dr Linder needs regulators across the globe to recognize and enforce the use of her dummy, or else many may just stick with their current methods.