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A Clue To the Reason for Women’s Pervasive Car-Safety Problem

Women are far more likely to suffer serious injuries in a car crash. From a report: The danger divide was first quantified in a 2011 study out of the University of Virginia, which found that for men and women who wore seatbelts, women were nearly 50 percent more likely to be seriously or fatally injured in a crash. And now it’s been confirmed by another paper from another University of Virginia research team, published this month, which found that the odds of serious injury or death for female car-crash victims is 73 percent higher than for males. The latest study, which analyzed crashes involving more than 31,000 individuals between 1998 and 2015, reveals some good news, too: All riders are now more than half as likely to sustain serious injuries in newer models (those manufactured in 2009 and later) than in older cars.

[…] It’s partly because of this lack of information — and lack of dedicated research into the question — that the same safety science that’s been making cars less dangerous for all riders hasn’t been able to shrink the gap between male and female auto safety. “Historically, we have used male-type crash test dummies,” said Becky Mueller, a senior research engineer at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). “Those dummies, despite being an average male, have done a good job at providing improvements for all different kinds of people.” Since the early 2000s, “female” crash test dummies have been deployed, but they tend to simulate smaller women, says Forman, with heights of 5 feet and weights of 110 pounds. “There is some logic behind the use of those: It is necessary to evaluate and protect for the extreme ends of the population,” he said. It’s also a big limitation of the model.


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