Page last updated at 00:08 GMT, Sunday, 18 May 2008 01:08 UK

Women 'face raised whiplash risk'

Crash test dummies
The researchers want changes to crash dummy testing

Women drivers are three times more likely than men to suffer whiplash injuries if their car is hit from behind, Swedish researchers say.

Women's risk is increased because they generally sit closer to the steering wheel, the Umea University team said having studied data on 400 injuries.

They said crash-test dummies should better reflect women's figures and help influence seat design.

But UK accident experts said there were already a range of dummies used.

Dummy difference

The researchers looked at insurance company data on more than 400 whiplash injuries claimed for during the 1990s.

They also carried out their own studies into how more than 200 men and women adjusted their car seats and then how they sat as they drove and as they were stationary.

They then compared the results from the human test with those from tests of a commonly used crash-test dummy, the BioRID, which is the same size as the average man or a large woman.

They concluded women's increased risk was partially due to them tending to sit higher and closer to the steering wheel and to have the seat back more upright.

No one thinks they have got the definitive dummy
Mira spokesman

For both women and men, sitting in the driver's seat entails twice the risk compared with the front passenger seat.

And when the data from dummy testing was examined, the researchers found it differed significantly in seat adjustments used and positioning.

They said: "Current crash dummies used to develop vehicle seats and neck supports, for instance, are geared to men of normal size, but not to women.

"This is especially true in regard to height.

"Nor does testing methodology take into consideration differences between the sexes, or differences in sitting position between the driver's seat and the front passenger seat."

The researchers, led by Bertil Jonnson, are also calling for a new test dummy to be designed to replicate an average-sized woman.

Head support

Mira, based in Nuneaton, Warwickshire, carries out safety tests for cars sold across the world.

It said a range of dummies were already used, including one which was used to represent both a small man and an average-sized woman.

"There are lots of different dummies out there," a spokesman said. "No-one thinks they have got the definitive dummy.

"Which one is used depends on what part of the world you want to sell a car in and what specific tests you want to carry out."

A spokesman for the UK's Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents said: "A properly adjusted head restraint will help prevent whiplash by reducing the distance between the back of the head and head restraint, stopping the neck from bending back.

"It will also reduce the amount of time it takes your head to initially contact the head restraint, and increase the amount of time that your head is supported during an accident."

He added: "It's important everyone adjusts the head rest as necessary - every time the car is used if there are different drivers using it."


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