Men and women get into the driver's seat every day to go to work, run errands, pick up their kids, take road trips and so much more. When car manufacturers implement safety features, you would expect they take all drivers into consideration.
Unfortunately, the history of automobile safety testing has skewed toward male drivers. The crash-test dummy, first developed in the early 1970s, was modeled on male soldiers. Testing with female dummies didn't exist until 2012 and only some testing is done with these models today. As a result, seatbelts and other lifesaving devices are generally not designed for female bodies.
Bringing equality to auto testing
As part of the company's ongoing Vision 2020 plan to end automobile injuries and fatalities, Volvo launched its new Equal Vehicles for All (E.V.A.) initiative. The company says they recognize that virtual models and physical dummies should be more representative of varying body types.
"To understand the mechanisms behind why people are hurt in cars, we needed to understand the impact on different individuals," says Jan Ivarsson, director and senior technical safety adviser at Volvo. "As safety leaders using real-life data, equality between sizes, gender and age is essential."
Research finds women are at greater risk
A significant element of E.V.A. is the 40 years of research Volvo released, documenting actual crash data. Prior to E.V.A., this information was only available in academic journals.
That data found that women are generally less safe in cars than men. They are at a higher risk of whiplash and women are more likely to be killed or injured in crashes.
This problem is significant, as women now hold more driver's licenses in the United States than men. If more car manufacturers have access to this research, maybe testing dummies will have more variety in the future and will improve safety for all drivers.