Why Women Suffer Worse Car Crash Injuries Than Men

Woman injured in car crash
Photo by tommaso79 / Shutterstock.com

Women who are in car crashes are much more likely to suffer significant injuries than men — and it’s likely because of the types of vehicles they drive, and the nature of their crashes, according to a new study.

Overall, men are involved in more fatal crashes, but women are 20% to 28% more likely to be killed on a per-crash basis, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

Women are between 37% and 73% more likely to be seriously injured, after adjusting for speed and other factors.

The IIHS study also found that women in front crashes are:

  • Three times as likely as men to experience a moderate injury (such as a broken bone or concussion)
  • Twice as likely to suffer a serious injury (such as a collapsed lung or traumatic brain injury)

It has been speculated that differences in body type might account for why women are more likely to be seriously injured in crashes. But after poring over injury data from police-reported tow-away front and side crashes during the years 1998 to 2015, the IIHS discovered other factors behind these differences.

In a press statement, Jessica Jermakian, IIHS vice president of vehicle research and one of the study’s authors, says:

“The numbers indicate that women more often drive smaller, lighter cars and that they’re more likely than men to be driving the struck vehicle in side-impact and front-into-rear crashes. Once you account for that, the difference in the odds of most injuries narrows dramatically.”

In examining the crash data, researchers found that men and women crashed in about equal proportions when driving minivans and SUVs. However, about 70% of women crashed in cars, compared with about 60% of men.

Meanwhile, more than 20% of men crashed in pickups, compared with less than 5% of women. The IIHS noted that within vehicle classes, “men also tended to crash in heavier vehicles, which offer more protection in collisions.”

The IIHS undertook its analysis in response to calls for new crash test dummies that better reflect how a typical woman’s body reacts to the force of a collision in an auto accident.

The researchers concluded that their findings show that “today’s crash-testing programs have helped women as much as men,” according to Jermakian.

However, the analysis also found that women are substantially more likely to suffer leg injuries, a reality that “will require more investigation,” Jermakian says.

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