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Wed Aug 17, 2022, 01:54 PM

It's Time to End Discrimination in Crash Testing

Itís Time to End Discrimination in Crash Testing
8/10/2022 by Maria Weston Kuhn

Two male crash test dummies inside a Subaru Outback. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which issues five-star safety ratings, does not crash test cars with dummies that accurately represent women. (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety)

Some people say we were in an accident. Iím not so sure. On Dec. 26, 2019, my family and I drove down a winding country road. Windshield wipers beat like a metronome, rhythmically breaking the constant wash of falling rain. Suddenly, headlights shined through the mist ahead. An oncoming driver had rounded the corner into our lane and his tires skidded across the wet asphalt. He crashed into us head on. Of course, he did not mean to. The driver did not intend for my momís sternum and tailbone to break, for my small intestine to burst or for me to require emergency surgery. He did not plan for us to wince at passing cars long into the futureóa consequence of our mental and emotional scars that cannot be seen.

Nevertheless, I donít call it an ďaccidentĒ because the injuries my mother and I suffered from that car crash were almost entirely predictable. Millions of women have similar stories. Despite causing less crashes, in similar collisions, women are 73 percent more likely to be severely injured and 17 percent more likely to be killed than men. We have a much higher risk of suffering severe abdominal, neck, chest and leg injuries. My burst intestine, leaking acid, air and blood into my abdomen, were not unique. My momís broken bones, and the fortunate lack of injuries suffered by any male passengers, werenít either. Instead, these consequences are the likely result of safety testing standards that are biased against women and have been in place for decades. The federal government knows this to be true because it is their data that researchers have repeatedly used to prove it.

Menís bodies and womenís bodies behave differently in collisions due to differences in size, muscle structure and bone density. But the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which issues five-star safety ratings, does not crash test cars with dummies that accurately represent women. The tests strictly prioritize menís safety and offer only hope that women may stand a chance. Too often, we donít. The seatbelt was designed to stop a manís forward momentum by catching his rigid hip bones. For me, it didnít. It slid above my hips, pinned my intestine against my spine and ruptured it.

. . . . . . .

We need crash tests updates that demonstrate womenís safety is equally as important as menís. For my family and millions of others, that could have made all the difference. Regardless of how you characterize what happened to my mom and me on that rainy winter day, I know we got lucky; we lived. Far too many women do not.


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