The Washington Post had an interesting article yesterday about the use of female crash test dummies to test car safety in 2011 cars. These dummies, which are lighter and smaller than the male dummies used in the past, provide very different safety data than the male dummies. Some cars tested with the female dummies now have lower safety ratings than they had with male dummies ("Female dummy makes her mark on male-dominated crash tests").
Women drive less than men, but because they tend to be smaller than men they are more vulnerable to injury in car crashes, writer Katherine Shaver points out. They are also more likely to be in the passenger seat than in the driver's seat when traveling with others, which increases their risk for injury and death.
Despite these gender differences, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has used only male dummies to create crash test ratings for cars in the past. The story about the use of new female dummies in the 2011 ratings is worth reading to better understand the true risks of driving for women, which the auto industry can address with improved safety features.