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Crash Dummies: Women are more likely to die or be injured in car crashes. There’s a simple reason why.

All the crash test dummies are male. Even the “female” dummies the government requires in tests are just smaller versions of male dummies. As a result, many cars are not primarily designed to keep women safe.

We live in a world designed for men. The top shelves in many supermarkets are too high for many women to reach. Many cellphones are too big for an average woman’s hand. And because women’s bodies have a lower metabolic resting rate than men’s, the typical office is about five degrees too cold for women, write Susan Molinari and Beth Brooke in The Washington Post.

Over the years, we have learned to live with these inconveniences. We bring a sweater to the office or stick a knob on the back of our phones to make them easier to hold. But in some instances, unequal design costs lives.

For example, more than 40,000 Americans are projected to die in automobile crashes this year — a “crisis,” according to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. Importantly, those deaths are not suffered equally. While men are more likely to cause crashes, women are more likely to die in them. When compared with a male crash victim a woman is 17 percent more likely to die, according to a study conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and 73 percent more likely to be seriously injured in a vehicle crash, according to a 2019 University of Virginia study.

Why? All the crash test dummies are male. Even the “female” dummies the government requires in tests are just smaller versions of male dummies. As a result, many cars are not primarily designed to keep women safe.

This must change. But so far, the government has refused to make it happen.

[Editor’s note: The National Highway Transportation Safety Agency notes on its website that it uses female and child dummies in car safety tests: “NHTSA’s family of dummies representation ranges from newborn infant to 6-year-old children to small females and average males. We’re always looking to enhance their abilities, and in recent years advanced biomechanics research and measurement technologies have helped to improve crash dummy development.”]

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