Invisible Bias: How Crash Test Dummies Are Failing Womxn
Crash Test Dummies might be a random band from the 1990s, but crash test dummies (no caps) are something you need to think about. If you ever drive or ride in a car (hello, that’s basically everyone!), it’s worth knowing this unfortunate fact: the way automobiles are safety tested is super male-oriented.
Sadly, just like many aspects of our society, car safety is designed with male passengers and drivers in mind, rather than womxn. This means females are more at risk of injury and even death in car accidents. While men are known to cause more accidents, females are more likely to be seriously injured in accidents.
A 2019 study showed that females have a 73% higher chance of being seriously injured in a frontal crash than males. So yep, that’s terrible news for the female drivers of the world – and a massive reason for this is car safety testing.
Are there female crash test dummies used by car companies? If not, why not? Here’s everything you need to know about the gender bias in car safety testing.
First, what exactly is a crash test dummy?
Good question – auto safety testing isn’t something most of us think about on a daily basis, so let’s clarify this first. It works like this: before it can be released to the public, each new make and model of car must first undergo rigorous safety testing to see how it holds up in a crash. Obviously, car companies can’t put real humans into cars that are about to be crashed, so they use crash dummies instead.
These dummies are super high-tech pieces of machinery that resemble a human, with a head, arms, and legs. Their weight is equal to an average human’s weight to allow car manufacturers to observe how a real person might react when the car crashes. But the big issue is that most dummies are designed to represent the average male.
When was the first female crash test dummy?
Are crash test dummies all male? There’s no way that can be possible, when females make up so much of the population, right? Well, while things are starting to change, the first female crash dummy wasn’t created until – get this – 2012.
Yep, we said 2012 – just a few years ago. This means that for decades, womxn were driving in cars that had never been tested for safety on drivers just like them. It makes us so angry to even think about this, but it’s just one of the many ways womxn have been silenced and belittled within our lifetimes, like with the gender pay gap.
How crash test dummies are failing womxn
Why does it matter so much that companies are only using male crash test dummies? We’ll tell you. Males and females have very different proportions and their weight isn’t dispersed in the same way throughout their bodies. Females often have breasts, hips, and thighs that mean the way our bodies carry weight is much different than a man’s.
Think back to your high school physics class and the laws of motion. When a moving vehicle stops suddenly, like in a car crash, what happens to the objects within the car? That’s right – the objects, or in this case, humans, are going to keep moving and go flying forward. And humans of different mass and shape are going to react very differently in an accident, even with seat belts on.
In particular, womxn are more likely to get whiplash after an accident – a potentially serious injury caused by your neck and spine being thrown forward when the car makes impact in the crash. By using only male dummies, car companies aren’t learning how female bodies would react in a car crash, which means their safety isn’t taken into account. This contributes to why more females are injured than males in car accidents.
Some car companies do test on female dummies, but the problem is that they don’t accurately represent us. The most common female dummy is known as Hybrid-III 5F and she is 4’11” and weighs 108 pounds. The average US adult female is 5’4” and 170 pounds, so this is a big problem.
So, why can’t they just make more dummies? These models are actually extremely complex and robotic, with dummies costing in the hundreds and thousands of dollars each. Not only were car engineers predominantly male (which is why females weren’t considered in the first place), but we can assume car companies don’t want to spend the money on new dummies. And yes, this is why we need more womxn in STEM jobs to provide us with a seat at the table!
How do I know if my car was tested with female crash test dummies?
So, are companies that use female crash test dummies out there? If you’re thinking of buying a new car, this is definitely an important consideration.
Unfortunately, there’s not a huge amount of data out there on this, but car manufacturer Volvo has launched the E.V.A. initiative, a new method of car safety testing that aims to make cars safer for everyone, particularly females and children. This is great to see, but this is something all car brands should be doing – not just one.
What can I do about this issue?
If you’re shocked to learn how we’ve been collectively ignored by the car companies we give lots of money to, you’re not alone. It’s a serious problem when it comes to our safety and health, so we recommend speaking up!
Before buying a new car, talk to the dealer about how the car was tested and be prepared to walk away if they’re not willing to give you straight answers. You can also reach out to car brands directly, via email or on social media – let them know why this issue matters to you and ask them to make changes to their testing policies.
Over time, we hope this can lead to more car companies investing in female crash dummies, because we all deserve to stay safe on the road.