Dem introduces serious bill in the House requiring gender equality in crash-test dummies

Washington, D.C.’s non-voting House delegate believes automobile makers are being discriminatory, and she’s pushing for them to change their ways.

Democratic Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, who has held her position since 1991, says the automobile industry’s use of male-only crash-test dummies amounts to straight-up gender discrimination.

Norton, chair of the House Transportation Committee’s subcommittee on highways and transit, is arguing for new legislation that will “ensure vehicle safety standards are designed with women in mind as well as men,” The Washington Times reported earlier this week.

Automakers and the federal government have been using essentially the same crash-test dummies for years; at present, automakers are not required to use gender-specific models. It’s not clear why Norton believes it’s suddenly an issue, though she did offer somewhat of an explanation.

“Women have achieved equality on the road when it comes to driving, but when it comes to safety testing to keep them safe on the road, they are nowhere near achieving equality,” she said in a statement. “Crash-test standards are incredibly antiquated, and we must update these standards now, especially as more people return to their daily commute in the next few months.”

According to Norton’s office, male-only crash dummies mean that research regarding women drivers and passengers is absent, thereby leaving them at a “higher risk of injury” or death in an accident.

“More important than differences in average height between males and females, there are also other biological differences in anatomy, such as average neck strength and posture, that affect how female and male bodies react in a crash,” Norton’s office noted in a statement.

Norton added on Twitter: “I’ll be introducing a bill to require that car crash test dummies be modeled on both male and female bodies. Currently, the federal government only uses crash test dummies modeled on male bodies, and car companies are not required to use dummies modeled on female bodies.

“Female car crash victims are 73% more likely to experience serious injury or death than males. This is about more than differences in average height—there are other anatomical differences between males and females that affect how bodies react in a crash,” she added.

The Times noted that researchers with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration discovered recently that female drivers or females riding in the front seat of vehicles are 17 percent more likely to be killed than men in crashes.

“Mrs. Norton’s legislation comes as congressional Democrats have made a broader push to advance gender equity since President Biden took office,” the Times added.

A recent report by Money Talks News puts a different perspective on the issue.

While acknowledging that women are more likely than men to suffer injuries in crashes or die, the outlet reported that’s “likely because of the types of vehicles they drive, and the nature of their crashes, according to a new study.”

According to research, men, overall, are more likely to be involved in fatal vehicular crashes. However, the outlet reported — citing research from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety — women are 20-28 percent more likely to be killed “on a per-crash basis.” And women are between 37 and 73 percent more likely to be hurt seriously “after adjusting for speed and other factors.”

It’s not clear how adding female-model crash dummies will affect these outcomes.

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Jon Dougherty

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