One of the most horrific experiences a person can go through is losing a loved one in a car accident, so it makes sense that automakers would take every precaution to keep drivers and passengers safe. However, specific information regarding the growth of the automotive industry reveals a historical gender gap in safety features, putting more women at risk for crash-related harm or death.
Mullen & Mullen Law Firm assists clients who have been gravely wounded as a result of the recklessness, carelessness, or negligence of another person or company.
Many people were horrified after journalist Laurel Raymond recently tweeted an excerpt from an Atlantic article documenting the history of sexist car safety rules.
The excerpt, which states that “cars were not tested to be safe for female bodies” is unfortunately correct — it’s also possible that this is one of the reasons why the number of women injured or killed in car accidents is so disproportionately high compared to men.
For more than 60 years (since before WWII), car manufacturers only used male crash test dummies when developing vehicles, assuming that male physical characteristics were representative of all passengers in terms of safety. Of course, this is not true; women have different bone densities, are generally shorter in stature, and have a different muscular makeup than men. However, it wasn’t until 2003 that the use of female crash test dummies became widespread enough to have a significant impact on the automotive industry. It wasn’t until 2011 that the use of female dummies became mandatory under federal law.
A San Diego State University injury prevention director identified narrow-mindedness as the cause of this difference in viewpoint when questioned about it. Manufacturers and designers used to be exclusively men, according to Dr. David Lawrence, and they “didn’t think through that they should be designing for people different from themselves.”
The probability of being involved in a car accident is significantly higher for women than it is for males in comparable occurrences, in part due to this neglect by vehicle designers. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that women are 13.4% more likely to die in car accidents than males are when both parties are operating the same vehicle.
This conclusion is supported by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which notes that while men drive more recklessly and log more miles per year on average, “females are more likely than males to be killed or injured in crashes of equivalent severity.”
Today, a variety of dummies, including female and child-size passenger proxies, are used to assess the performance of automobiles. But the fact that it took until 2011 for this to become the norm is highly disconcerting and indicates a troubling industrial trend: businesses are cutting corners on consumer safety requirements. Women are frequently the targets of industry sexism, as seen by the negative impact on women’s health caused by the exclusion of female subjects from scientific trials.