Coalition Calls for Updated Federal Crash Test Standards

Revising federal crash test standards and updating test dummies to mimic a wider variety of bodies could save thousands of lives each year.

2 minute read

December 31, 2021, 7:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Crash test dummies in a car / Crash test dummies

A coalition titled Vehicle Equity Rules in Transportation (Verity Now) is calling on federal regulators to make crash testing more inclusive through the use of "biofidelic" crash test dummies. According to reporting by Kea Wilson, the coalition claims that adopting updated test dummy standards and reviewing them regularly could save up to 1,342 lives each year.

Because test dummies reflect the male body, "[s[tudies show that when they’re inside of a car at the time of a crash, women and people who were assigned female at birth are 17 percent more likely to die and 73 percent more likely to be seriously injured than a driver or passenger who was assigned male at birth who’s struck in the same conditions."

Under the recently passed Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the regulators who supervise the New Car Assessment Program will, for the first time, be required to test and provide information to prospective car-buyers on how likely their vehicle is to kill or injure a pedestrian, a critical standard that other nations adopted way back in 2008.

However, the new requirements won't ban cars that fail from being sold, writes Wilson. While other factors such as driving behavior and vehicle choice are also at play, "few doubt that sexist vehicle testing standards are a major contributor to the problem, or that crash testing standards desperately need to be fixed."

Susan Molinari, a former member of Congress from New York and Verity Now co-chair, says women's physiology differs in ways that make a big impact on how crashes affect their bodies, and crash testing should "compensate for those differences." If the NHTSA does not act on updating the standards, her group is prepared to lobby for legislation that would mandate improved vehicle safety standards.

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