Five reasons why women are more at risk travelling in cars and how Volvo is trying to fix this

14 August 2020 - 11:04 By Motoring Reporter
Volvo's Equal Vehicles for All (E.V.A) initiative is making cars that are equally safe for male and female drivers.
Volvo's Equal Vehicles for All (E.V.A) initiative is making cars that are equally safe for male and female drivers.
Image: Supplied

Vehicle owners typically associate modern cars with mobility and safety. After all, cars are safer than ever before, right? The sad reality – especially during Women’s Month – is that the answer is only “yes” for male motorists. Here are five reasons why:

  1. As recently as last year, most car makers were still producing cars that are designed based exclusively on data from male crash test dummies. This means that – practically – women run a higher risk of getting injured in accidents than men.
  2. Because of their different anatomy and body strength, women are at higher risk of whiplash than men.
  3. Thanks to differences in chest anatomy and strength, women are more likely to suffer a chest injury in a car crash than men.
  4. The shorter a person is, the lower in the car and closer to the steering wheel they sit. Accordingly, women have specific protection needs, specifically pertaining to side impacts.
  5. Seatbelts are lifesavers, but what about pregnant women? Many carmakers are unable to answer this question, potentially placing a mother and her foetus at risk.

These facts – established by Volvo’s Accident Research Team in Sweden – seem to represent a bit of a sorry state of affairs.

“And yes, the scenario is discouraging – especially for female motorists,” comments Charmagne Mavudzi, head of customer experience at Volvo Car South Africa. “But the good news is that Volvo is addressing the situation via our E.V.A. initiative.”

E.V.A. stands for Equal Vehicles for All and, in terms of this initiative, Volvo is making cars that are equally safe for male and female drivers.

“We have been compiling real-world accident data since the 1970s, and so we have been able to identify what injuries arise in different accidents for men, women, and children,” explains Mavudzi.

This knowledge has been put into practical use when it comes to applying safety features to women.

“Just one such example is our Whiplash Protection System (WHIPS). It combines a unique robust head restraint with a clever seat design to protect both the head and spine. Thanks to this technology, we no longer see a difference in whiplash risk between men and women. The great news is that our vehicles are now safer for men than ever before. But they’re safer for women too,” she concludes.

In theory, other manufacturers’ cars should also now be safer than before; Volvo made all its E.V.A. initiative-related findings open source to all automobile manufacturers in order to improve safety throughout the industry.


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