But a female dummy didn’t become a mandatory part of frontal crash tests until last year. For all this time, the average American guy stood for us all.
That may have had a substantial impact on women’s auto safety. If airbags are designed for the average male, they will strike most men in the upper chest, creating a cushion for their bodies and heads. Yet small women might hit the airbag chin first, snapping their heads back, potentially leading to serious neck and spinal injuries.
In some cases, according to tests with female mannequins, small women were almost three times as likely as their average male counterparts to be seriously injured or killed. A study of actual crashes by the University of Virginia’s Center for Applied Biomechanics found that women wearing seatbelts were 47 percent more likely to be seriously injured than males in similar accidents.