Male crash test dummies put women drivers at risk for injury, Consumer Reports investigation shows

Over the years, crash test dummies have contributed to making cars safer for everyone, but some auto experts are now raising a flag about a possible deficiency that they say needs to be addressed.

We have the results of a revealing new Consumer Reports investigation into crash test dummies.

Despite their blank faces and androgynous features, most dummies used in crash tests represent one type of driver, a very specific adult man, which researchers say pose a safety risk to women.

"There are no crash test dummies that represent the average female in our country, and that's despite the fact that women are nearly half the drivers and are more than half the population," David Friedman, Consumer Reports advocacy expert.

Results from safety crash tests have a direct impact on how cars are designed, but if safety test prioritize adult men, what does that mean for women?

A recent University of Virginia study revealed a seat belt-bearing woman is 73-percent more likely to be seriously injured in a frontal car crash than a man.

"This has been a clear problem since at least the 1980s back when the regulators actually first asked for there to be dummies starting to represent women -- what they got was a scaled-down version of a male dummy that today is so small that really it represents a young teenager," said Friedman.

Automakers disagree that a change would help.

The Auto Alliance, a US automaker trade group, told CR they do not believe a female dummy would be useful because the current American female is closer in height and weight to the male dummy currently used for testing. But CR said car makers and crash testers need to consider much more than just the size of dummies for different genders.

"It's not enough for us to just take the male dummy and scale it down to the size of a female. There are important physiological differences between men and women that makes our bodies react differently during a car crash. That's why it's important for us to account for these biomechanical and material differences in our dummy design," said Emily Thomas, Ph.D., Consumer Reports injury biomechanics.

Government agencies are evaluating a new set of dummies but have no current plans for a female dummy for those newer models either.
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