Gender Equality Comes for Crash Test Dummies

(Insurance Institute for Highway Safety via AP)

Equality — it’s all the rage.

Actually, equity is.

But this story brings back the old-fashioned principal of opportunity being equal — where getting smashed is concerned.

On Monday, House of Representatives delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (District of Columbia ) announced a new bill requiring “gender equality in crash test dummies.”

Via a press release, Eleanor — chair of the Subcommittee on Highways and Transit — said her proposal will mandate that car crash dummies be modeled after female as well as male bodies.

“The federal government only uses crash test dummies modeled on male bodies,” the notice states, “and car companies are not required to use dummies modeled on female bodies either.”

The Democrat pointed out that, in addition to height, “there are also other biological differences in anatomy…”

Those include posture and “average neck strength.”

Because tests “with the safety of women in mind” aren’t compulsory, Eleanor asserted, “women are at higher risk of injury and death in car crashes.”

Is she right?

Consumer Reports had something to say about it back in 2019.

“You might assume from its lack of distinguishing features that [a] crash test dummy is an avatar for all humanity,” the magazine began. But most mannequins used in safety tests “represent a very specific man.”

Furthermore, CR offered, “An average adult female crash test dummy simply does not exist.”

That, despite the reality of male and female bodies reacting differently to crashes.

But how do the sexes fare on the road?

According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Federal Highway Administration, men are more likely to speed and to drive under the influence, as well as not wear a seat belt.

And most Americans killed in auto accidents are indeed male.

However, females are more likely to die when injured in a crash.

There is a female model, but she’s a mini-man:

Regulators asked for a female dummy in 1980, and a group of automakers petitioned for one in 1996, but it took until 2003 for NHTSA to put one in the car. Even then, it’s just a scaled-down version of a male dummy that represents only the smallest 5 percent of women by the standards of the mid-1970s—so small that it can work double-duty as a 12- or 13-year-old child. No dummy takes into account the biological differences between male and female bodies.

“[I]f safety tests don’t prioritize female occupants,” CR surmises, “carmakers won’t necessarily make changes to better protect them.”

Of course, no matter what sex-specific model is used, it isn’t going to sit in place of everyone. Americans come in different sizes and shapes.

Consider this from a 2019 CDC report:

  • 6 states had an obesity prevalence of 35 percent or higher among non-Hispanic White adults.
  • 15 states had an obesity prevalence of 35 percent or higher among Hispanic adults.
  • 34 states and the District of Columbia had an obesity prevalence of 35 percent or higher among non-Hispanic Black adults.

Ever seen a fat crash dummy?

Perhaps not, but here’s a parental one:

And here’s Consumer Reports with a bit more on the dimensions of the manikins:

[T]he vast majority of automotive safety policy and research is still designed to address the body of the so-called 50th percentile male—currently represented in crash tests by a 171-pound, 5-foot-9-inch dummy that was first standardized in the 1970s (today, the average American man is about 26 pounds heavier).

Hence, Eleanor champions chicks in crash-testing:

Women have achieved equality on the road when it comes to driving, but when it comes to safety testing to keep them safe on the road, they are nowhere near achieving equality. Crash test standards are incredibly antiquated, and we must update these standards now, especially as more people return to their daily commute in the next few months.

Hopefully, she can soon address the other four sexes:

In the meantime, at least we’ve achieved the delegate’s dream in the realm of politics: As the past few years have unquestionably illustrated, both men and women can be — and often are — dummies.

-ALEX

 

See more pieces from me:

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(Editor’s Note: I couldn’t help it. Bonus video.)