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 Insurance Institute for Highway Safety shows.
“Our study shows that today’s crash testing programs have helped women as much as men,” said Jessica Jermakian, IIHS vice president of vehicle research, one of the study’s authors. “That said, we found that women are substantially more likely to suffer leg injuries, which is something that will require more investigation.”
Though men are involved in more fatal crashes than women, on a per-crash basis women are 20% to 28% more likely than men to be killed and 37% to 73% 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.
“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,” says Jermakian. “Once you account for that, the difference in the odds of most injuries narrows dramatically.”
Recently, the discrepancy in injury risk for men and women has prompted calls for new crash test dummies that better reflect how women’s bodies react to the forces of collisions and other changes to crash-testing programs. With this new study, IIHS sought to shed more light on the issue and to see what kind of changes to its vehicle testing program might be warranted.
The researchers analyzed the injuries of men and women in police-reported tow-away front and side crashes from 1998-2015.
In front crashes, they found women were three 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...