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February 15, 2021

Choice of Car May Lead to More Serious Injuries in Women

Women are much more likely than men to suffer a serious injury when they are involved in a crash, but much of the heightened risk is related to the types of vehicles women drive and the circumstances of their crashes, rather than physical differences, new research from the US-based Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) shows.

The study shows that women more often drive smaller, lighter cars. 

Men and women crashed in minivans and SUVs in about equal proportions. However, around 70 percent of women crashed in cars, compared with about 60 percent of men. More than 20 percent of men crashed in pickups, compared with less than 5 percent of women. Within vehicle classes, men also tended to crash in heavier vehicles, which offer more protection in collisions.

It was also revealed that men are involved in more fatal crashes than women, on a per-crash basis women are 20 to 28 percent more likely than men to be killed, and 37 to 73 percent more likely to be seriously injured after adjusting for speed and other factors. However, when IIHS researchers limited the comparison to similar crashes, they found those discrepancies mostly disappeared and that crashworthiness improvements have benefited men and women more or less equally.

In front crashes, they found women were 3 times as likely to experience a moderate injury such as a broken bone or concussion and twice as likely to suffer a serious one like a collapsed lung or traumatic brain injury. In side crashes, the odds of a moderate injury were about equal for men and women, while women were about 50 percent more likely to be seriously injured, but neither of those results was statistically significant.

A further analysis of those crashes, as well as the unrestricted set of side crashes, showed that good ratings in the Institute’s moderate overlap front and side tests lowered the odds of most injuries more or less equally for both sexes. In the compatible front crashes, the benefits of a good rating in the moderate overlap front test were greater for women except in the case of leg injuries, where the benefit was similar. In the side-impact crashes, a good rating in the side test benefited men and women about equally where moderate injuries were concerned, but the benefits of a more crashworthy vehicle were greater for women for most types of serious injuries.

Previously, there were calls for new crash test dummies that would better reflect how women’s bodies react to the forces of collisions and other changes to crash-testing programs. With this study, the IIHS sought to shed more light on the issue and to see what kind of changes to its vehicle testing program might be warranted.

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