Friday, December 2, 2022

For some reason, the safety of a car is not tested on women; until now

They are known as dummies either crash dummies. And they are so easily recognizable that even starred in a video game in the 90s, The Incredible Crash Dummies. Until dolls were sold to play with them. But the originals are mannequins whose mission is to help test security of a car in the event of a collision. They normally mimic male and child anatomy. And it’s hard to find a female mannequin for security testing.

Before the dummiesto try what happens to the human body When a traffic accident occurred, inside or outside a vehicle, they came to use animals, human corpses and even living volunteers. So that the tests could be more common, without danger to anyone, it was decided to opt for human-shaped mannequins. Similar to the wooden figures that artists use to paint. The first dates from 1949 and was named Sierra Sam. Since then, the crashes dummies or test dummies have helped save lives exposing the safety or insecurity of each new car model.

The crash dummies they came into mass use in the 1970s. Back then, both men and women drove. But the automobile industry chose to use as a model the standard male body. Currently, this model is equivalent to a male of 78 kilos and 1 meter with 75 centimeters in height. It was the standard in 1970. And maybe it should be revised. The same thing that should happen with the female model. In the United States, the female test dummy is focused on a standard female of 49 kilograms and 1 meter 50 centimeters. Do you fit into either of the two models? As explained in an article by BBC, the female standard did not fit even in 1970, since it was equivalent to the smallest 5% of the female population. And no matter how much security a vehicle incorporates, accidents happen.

The first victim was a woman.

If you search the internet who was the first car accident victim you will find the name of James William Lambert. The accident occurred in the city of Ohio, in Ohio, United States, in 1891. As a curiosity, I was testing a self-built car. The first gasoline and with a single cylinder. The accident occurred when colliding with the root of a tree. Which caused the driver to lose control. There was wounded but not dead.

But if we take a look at WikipediaSome time ago there was a car accident. Of course, it was a steam-powered vehicle. It was August 31, 1869 and the protagonist was, curiously, a woman. Mary Ward. The news was published in the King’s County Chronicle of September 1, 1869. The victim He died after falling from the vehicle and being hit by a car. by one of the heavy wheels of the automobile.

Test dummies are usually male or child.  Few female mannequins are used
Child test dummy. Source: Karco Engineering, NHTSA (Wikipedia)

What do the statistics say?

maybe in the first half of the 20th century cars were mainly driven by men. But in the second half there were many social changes. To the point that if we take a look at the statistics, we find that men and women are on par in number of driver’s licenses or licenses. And although in recent years there has been a slight decline, it affects both equally.

In USAin 2020, there were 115.6 million driver’s licenses compared to 112.6 million driver’s licenses. That is, more women than men. And in United Kingdom, in 2020, 188,557 men passed the driving test compared to 182,282 women. Very similar numbers. In Spain, the DGT census says that there are 15.52 million men with cards and 11.68 million women. We are very close again.

A more real female mannequin

It has happened to all of us. Different heights, different weights and being a man or a woman has its consequences when we get into a car. The seat distance to the wheel, the belt position security, the positioning of the airbag and the side protections… Everything is ready to protect driver and passengers on most occasions. And in recent years, also to avoid damage to pedestrians.

But when the tests are done, the dummy on duty has specific measures. So that test results affect a specific population. In Spain, the average man has a height of 1.76 and a weight of 84 kilograms. We said that the dummy Standard measures 1.75 and weighs 78 kilograms. But in the case of women, the average Spanish woman measures 1.62 and weighs 65.9 kilograms. The equivalent female mannequin of her measures 1.50 and weighs 49 kilograms. Some major differences and that can have consequences.

The solution, a female mannequin more in line with the actual and actual means. Swedish engineers have designed a female anatomy test dummy that He is 1.62 tall and weighs approximately 62 kilos.. It may not fit some profiles but it is more realistic than the previous standard.

In Sweden they have designed a female mannequin according to the royal standardIn Sweden they have designed a female mannequin according to the royal standard
Test dummy (left). Dr. Astrid Linder (right) Credit: Swedish National Road and Transport Research Institute / VTI

More varied accident simulations

This particular female mannequin has been developed in the facilities of linkopinga Swedish city that has a testing laboratory specialized in traffic accidents. Is named Swedish National Road and Transport Research Institute (Swedish National Institute for Road and Transport Research) and directs the doctor astrid linder.

Today tests are performed using sensorscomputers and millions of data that are captured in thousandths of seconds and that allow to know the accident conditions in parameters such as impact velocity, crush force, body flex and torsion, and braking rates. And, of course, they analyze the dummy biomechanics during collisions.

And the reason that this laboratory designed a female or female mannequin is the existence of statistics like the ones they drive in the United States. According to these data, if a woman is in a car accident, she has three times more likely to suffer whiplash injuries in rear impacts than in the case of men. And while whiplash isn’t usually deadly, it can cause physical disabilities. Some of them permanent.

Definitely. A female-shaped mannequin according to current standards will give more reliable results in the many tests carried out around the world. And it is that different weights and heights can give rise to vehicles installing security measures that become dangerous for those who do not measure up to those male or child mannequins with whom they get used to working.

Make it a standard in the future

The next step to follow is for this female dummy, or similar versions, to be used in the different accident tests that are carried out around the world. And it is that the regulation of these tests in Europe and the United States it does not specify that the consequences of accidents on female bodies should be analysed. As explained in the article BBC What explains this story? United Nations is reviewing road traffic testing regulations to incorporate these types of changes. However, it is something that requires time until it is incorporated into the regulations of each affected country.

The good news is that insurers and manufacturers of cars are using crash dummies of different shapes and sizes to adapt to the reality that surrounds us. Babies, elderly people, overweight bodies… And it is of little use to modernize the current mannequins with integrated sensors if the shapes, measurements and weights do not correspond to the people who will be in those vehicles in future years.

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