AutoIs driving safety sexist?

Is driving safety sexist?

What happens to the human body during a collision? The Volvo Cars Safety Center has been busy collecting data to understand it since the 1970s. Sadly, in the process, he has come to realize a reality that the automotive industry rarely takes into account in crash tests: men and women do not have equivalent anatomies.

Despite this evidence, in the middle of 2019, most car manufacturers continue to create vehicles that are based exclusively on data obtained in collision tests carried out with male dummies. As a consequence, women may be at greater risk of accidents and injuries of various kinds behind the wheel.

With the aim of making cars safer for everyone, regardless of gender and constitution, Volvo Cars’ EVA (Equal Vehicles for All) Initiative has studied more than 43,000 vehicles in real-life accidents, involving more than 72,000 people. The result is a compendium of more than 100 research papers, available to anyone. But how pronounced are the anatomical differences, for example, between men and women? To what extent is this review necessary in vehicle manufacturing to minimize risks?

It may seem that, at the level of safety devices, the anatomical differences between men and women are insignificant. But it’s not like that. For example, as a consequence of a difference in body strength, women are at higher risk of whiplash. The same is true for chest injuries.

Anatomically speaking, women more often have lower muscle strength (less muscle structure). The skeletal structure is also key to withstand impacts. Men tend to have a larger span at the shoulders; and women tend to hold their weight on their hips. In addition, women often have, on average, shorter than men.

The seat, key to preventing whiplash

One of the Volvo Cars studies focused on evaluating the effectiveness of different types of seats against a variety of injuries. He took the BioRID shock manikin as a reference half the time, made according to the anatomy of a medium-sized man; and, the other half, a new loading device was used to represent a female passenger.

The results showed that seats that performed poorly when using a male BioRID showed much higher performance under the load represented by the female physiognomy, and vice versa.

In other words, the vehicle has a completely different kinematics associated with it when it carries a lower load (women tend to have a lower weight ). Likewise, the result for injury differs.

In the graph, we can see the score given to the different seats (A, B, C and D) taking the male BioRID mannequin as a reference.

The evaluation of the test was subject to the European criteria for automobile safety (Euro – NCAP).

The muscles intervene in the response of the spine to impacts

When a human body suffers an impact, immediately its muscles are activated. In another study by Volvo Cars, the active muscle element was implemented for the first time during different injury test models, and it was observed that muscle strength is key to determining the response of the spine during a rear, side and frontal collision. .

Vehicles for all

These are some of the examples presented by Volvo out of more than 100 published studies evaluating different aspects of car safety. Many of them refer to the need to consider more female models (but also of children, the elderly, and other types of physiological diversity) in crash tests.

Among other initiatives, Volvo has manufactured its own pregnant female mannequin in the world: it is a computer model that makes it possible to study how the occupant moves and how the seat belt and air bag affect the woman and the fetus, in addition of other data.

The conclusions of Volvo Cars emphasize that it is essential to include the diversity of bodies in the safety tests of cars, as part of the challenges that the industry will have to take on in the future.

The EVA Initiative studies are available to the entire industry, with the aim of making cars that are safer and adaptable to the diversity of their occupants.

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