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New study says crash test standards favor men

Crash test dummy in car

Even a dummy knows the bodies of men and women are different. Yet the government relies on decades-old standards when assessing the safety of motor vehicles – to the great detriment of women.

Here's what drivers in South Carolina should know.

Dummies in charge?

Researchers at the University of Virginia have published some alarming statistics about the dangers women face in motor vehicle accidents.

They found female drivers are:

  • 73% more likely to be seriously injured in car accidents than their male counterparts in similar crashes; and
  • 20% more likely to be killed.

A decades-long problem

There is a problem that has been overlooked for decades. Safety advocates say the methods employed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to test new vehicles for safety are outdated. They say the standards are misleading because they ignore the unique characteristics of the female body, especially in terms of muscle mass.

The NHTSA’s annual “5-Star Safety Rating” system receives wide media attention and is touted in advertisements by car manufacturers. What no one mentions is that the “driver” in those tests – the famous “crash test dummy” – is based roughly on a 5-foot-9-inch, 170-pound male.

A vehicle’s safety features are less effective for anyone who does not fit that profile. That includes the vast majority of the nation’s 116 million female drivers.

“I think women in America would be surprised that the ratings are not equivalent,” said Chris O’Connor. O'Connor is president and CEO of Humanetics, which manufactures safety devices, including crash test dummies, for safety testing.

The past and future of dummies

The NHTSA, contrary to common sense and good policy, refuses to retire the crash test dummies that are not much different from the ones utilized in the 1970s. What makes that especially baffling is the NHTSA itself commissioned research in the 1990s that produced a “smarter” dummy that provides more accurate safety test results.

The newer model contains more and improved sensors that can account for common female driver injuries to the legs, pelvis, neck, and chest. Yet the NHTSA, unlike many countries, has not officially adopted it for testing.

The situation has caught the attention of lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle in Washington. Both Democrats and Republicans say they are willing to support efforts mandating the NHTSA to update its safety standards if the agency is unwilling to act itself. Safety advocates also are calling for separate ratings for female drivers, as well as for older adults.

“If you’re seeing women dying – dying – 20% more often in a driver seat, belted, than a male, that’s something we need to fix,” O’Connor, CEO of Humanetics, said. “And we can’t wait.”

Demand justice with help from a car accident lawyer

If your vehicle fails to protect you in a crash due to a failed safety feature, you may be able to demand financial compensation for your losses from the auto manufacturer. Suing a car company because its design was flawed as a result of outdated crash test standards is much more difficult. Depending on the circumstances of your accident, seeking compensation from the at-fault driver's insurance company is typically the best way for you to be "made whole" again.

At Johnson + Johnson Attorneys at Law in Lexington, SC, our dedicated legal team knows how to craft a personalized legal strategy with the goal of recovering maximum compensation for your damages. We have extensive experience dealing with insurance companies and will not let them play games with your health or livelihood. We will fight for a fair financial settlement, but if we can't secure the money you deserve in negotiations, we are not afraid to file a lawsuit and take your case to court.

We also take personal injury cases on contingency, which means you pay no fees unless we obtain a settlement or verdict on your behalf. Learn your legal rights and options, and see how an experienced car accident lawyer can help you.

Contact us right now to set up a free case evaluation.

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