Almost half of American drivers are women, but crash test dummies are modeled on the average male driver. The first standardized crash dummies were in the 1970s. The dummy had a plank face and androgynous features, weighing in at 171 pounds and 5’9. The automotive industry is meant to represent an average, however research from the NHTSA shows that a woman wearing her seat belt is 73% more likely to be injured in an accident than her male counterpart. They also found that 17% of women are more likely to be killed in a car crash. A woman’s body even reacts differently from a man’s during an accident. Therefore, Toyota has recently pioneered research examining body posture and maneuvers in self-driving vehicles when passengers aren’t driving.
By the mid-1990s, a group of automakers petitioned together for a female dummy, and in 2003 the NHTSA created one. This female dummy represented the smallest 5 percent of women from the mid-1970s (about the size of a 12 or 13-year-old). At this time, crash dummies did not take on the full biological differences between male and female bodies. Having a limited dummy model, whether it’s male or female, may have stunted the development of vehicle safety for both genders over time.
Research shows that the lack of push to account various types of passengers during a crash test does noticeably limit the full safety potential for people, especially women. One of the most significant holdbacks is the massive cost of developing dummies and then adapting regulations. Dummies can take several years to create, test, and measure their finding. Despite these holdbacks with crash dummies, the automotive industry has seen massive vehicle design and safety improvements. Crash test, as a whole, has saved the lives of passengers from young and old, male and female.
Despite the crash dummies limitations, Toyota is evolving research to encompass natural body posture and maneuvers throughout a drive. Crash dummies are rigid and aren’t life-like, so the findings from Toyota’s study could mean a massive increase in vehicle safety design.