On average, cars are safer than they ever have been. Thanks to standard safety features and stricter safety standards, you are more likely to survive a car crash without injury. However, a new study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that women still have a greater risk of injury than men.
After determining causes such as vehicle choice, the study goes into fairly obvious ways in which researchers can work with carmakers to improve vehicle safety for women specifically.
Why are women more prone to injury in a car crash?
While the IIHS study lists multiple reasons why women are more likely to be injured in a car crash, one stands out over the rest. According to the IIHS, women on average drive smaller and lighter cars than men. Given the smaller size, these compact cars tend to have lower crash safety ratings than larger vehicles.
According to the IIHS, men and women drive minivans and SUVs at similar rates, and as a result, there isn’t a huge difference in terms of car crashes. However, the IIHS found that 70 percent of women crashed in cars compared to 60 percent of men. Additionally, around 20 percent of men crashed in pickup trucks, compared to just five percent of women. Given the size disparity between vehicles, men were better off in these crashes.
The IIHS study examined front and side car crash statistics from 1998 to 2015. The findings revealed that women were three times more likely to experience moderate injuries such as a broken bone or concussion. Additionally, women were twice as likely to suffer severe damage such as a collapsed lung or traumatic brain injury.
Women are at greater risk, in part because of men
The study found that these car crash statistics were also directly affected by how men and women crash. In terms of side-impact and front-into rear crashes, the IIHS study found that men on average are more likely to drive the striking vehicle rather than the one that is struck.
According to Consumer Reports, data from the FHWA shows that men drive more miles on average and are more likely to engage in risky behavior. These include speeding, driving while intoxicated, and not wearing a seatbelt.
Despite men being more likely to end up in fatal car crash scenarios, the IIHS found that women are 20 to 28 percent more likely to be killed. Additionally, the study found that women are 37 to 73 percent more likely to be seriously injured. Regardless of the cause, these results point to poor vehicle safety, specifically for women.
Biased crash testing is at the root of the issue
The way we fix these car crash issues is surprisingly simple. According to Jalopnik, the industry-standard crash test dummy that has been around since the 1970s weighs 171 pounds and is five feet, nine inches tall. The issue here is that the dummy is modeled to test for the average male.
In contrast, the female dummy is four feet, eleven inches tall. As you’d expect, this tiny size represents only five percent of women, says Jalopnik.
According to the IIHS, there is a need to develop new crash test dummies to reflect how women’s bodies react during a car crash. While this seems like the obvious solution, the question remains: Why wasn’t this done decades ago? Unfortunately, it seems higher fatality and injury rates were the only thing significant enough to alert researchers to this major problem.