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  • Researchers Create New Female Crash Test Dummy to Represent the Average Woman

    female crash test dummyAutomobile manufacturers first began conducting crash tests back in the 1960s. These tests relied on living males, not dummies, to simulate what the body underwent during an accident. In 1976, the Hybrid III model (the first test dummy) replaced live auto crash testers. While the decision to begin using dummies instead of living subjects was certainly a positive step toward improving safety, there was one major problem: limited funding meant there were no female crash test dummies, only male ones.

    History reveals that one of the main reasons the auto industry relied on male crash test dummies and not female ones was because of the pervasive belief that men were more likely to be involved, injured, or killed in a car accident than women were. The truth, however, is quite different. According to the crash data from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), while women have accounted for the majority of drivers and have been less likely to get into an accident than men, they are also 73% more likely to sustain significant injuries when they are involved in a crash and are 17% more likely to die in one than men are. Despite this information, the auto industry still does not require female crash test dummies for the four tests that currently comprise the crash test standard.

    The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or NHTSA, estimates that 42,795 people died in motor vehicle accidents in 2022. Thousands of automobile accidents happen every day, amounting to more than five million each year. People who are involved in car accidents can sustain various injuries that range from mild to severe. Some examples of common crash-related injuries include:

    • Whiplash
    • Soft tissue injuries
    • Back injuries
    • Spinal cord injuries
    • Bone fractures
    • Soft tissue injuries
    • Psychological injuries, such as PTSD (or posttraumatic stress disorder)
    • Burns
    • Bruising, scrapes and cuts
    • Facial injuries
    • Loss of limb or limbs
    • Internal injuries
    • Concussions and other traumatic types of brain injuries, or TBIs

    Although women are wholly underrepresented in today’s crash tests, you may be surprised to learn that men are not adequately represented by the current testing standard either. The Hybrid III model, for example, represented the average male nearly 50 years ago. Today the average male is 25 pounds heavier than the Hybrid III test dummy.

    The IIHS and NHTSA administer four different tests that form the crash test standard. These tests are:

    • The frontal crash test scenario. This test simulates the effects of a head-on crash on an “average-size adult male” in the driver seat and a “small-size adult female” in the front passenger seat.
    • The rollover resistance test, in which the vehicle departs the road and rolls over.
    • Side pole crash scenario, which uses an average-size adult male in the driver seat and a small-size adult female in the rear passenger seat (driver side), to represent an intersection-type collision
    • Side barrier crash test scenario. This test has an average-size adult male in the driver seat and a small-size adult female in the front passenger seat to simulate a crash between two similar vehicles of the same weight

    Although we learned earlier that woman account for most drivers, current testing requirements do not require female test dummies to be in the driving position for even one of the four tests. It is also important to note that while female test dummies are sometimes used in the tests listed above, that they are not required to be. Not only is the use of a female dummy not mandatory, but when the auto industry uses one it is 4 feet 8 inches tall and 105 pounds. A test dummy of that size is more representative of a young adult or teenage girl (ages 12 to 13) than an adult female. Today, the average American woman is 5 foot 4 inches tall and weighs 170 pounds.

    So far, most of the technological advances in vehicle safety have helped only men. For example, women are more likely than men to sustain whiplash when they are involved in an accident. This is because on average, the female neck is less muscular and bonier than a male’s. Despite this, most of the previous advances in whiplash protection design (in the 1990s) benefited men exclusively, except for one. Women and children were also suffering fatal injuries from low impact injuries during the same period. Why? Because airbags that manufacturers designed to protect men did not account for the size and weight differences of women and children and were causing deadly injuries instead of protecting them. As you can see, the lack of female representation is a direct cause of preventable injuries and deaths.

    You may be wondering what steps the auto industry is taking to shield women from continuing to fall victim to avoidable crash-related injuries. Members of Congress and the Secretary of the Department of Transportation have called on lawmakers to support female representation in crash testing but so far, no one has been successful in passing a bill. Perhaps one of the most significant advances was made by a research team out of the Swedish National Road and Transport Research Institute. They created a female test dummy who represents nearly the 50th percentile in height (5 foot 3 inches) and 25th percentile in weight, or 137 pounds. Auto safety advocates hope that the creation of this test dummy will propel the industry towards other crucial advances, like improving safety and equal gender representation in crash testing.

    If you were injured in an automobile accident and would like to file a legal claim for your injuries, someone at our firm can help. Our attorneys have been representing car accident victims for decades. Here are just a few examples of our firm’s notable recoveries:

    • We represented a client who was left paralyzed after sustaining spinal injuries in a head-on traffic collision. Our team pursued a case not only against the at-fault driver but also against the automobile manufacturer for defective seat belts and the crash-worthiness of the vehicle. We successfully recovered $4,500,000.00 for our injured client. You can read more about this recovery here:
    • Our client was struck by a tractor-trailer on an inter-state highway. His injuries were so severe that doctors had to amputate both his legs below the knee. Our team’s investigation revealed that the brakes on the trailer were worn out and that the tires were bald. We also uncovered evidence that the driver’s log was inaccurate and that he was driving excessive hours. In the end, we recovered $3,000,000.00 for our client. To learn more about this recovery, visit:

    If you would like to speak with someone about filing an automobile accident claim, please contact a representative online now.


    Philadelphia Personal Injury Lawyers at Galfand Berger, LLP, Representing Injured Victims Since 1947

    If you have questions about filing a claim for injuries you sustained, contact the Philadelphia personal injury attorneys at Galfand Berger LLP today. Call us at 800-222-USWA (8792) or fill out our online form for a free consultation. Located in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Lancaster, and Reading, we serve clients throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania, including Allentown and Harrisburg.

    1-800-222-USWA (8792)