Increased risk of injury in accidents for women may come from vehicle choice

Researchers have known that women are much more likely than men to suffer a serious injury when involved in an automobile accident. Recent research has indicated that most of the heightened risk is related to the types of vehicles women drive and the circumstances of their crashes rather than physical differences between men and women. The research comes from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which found crash testing programs have helped women as much as they have helped men.The research found that women are substantially more likely to suffer leg injuries, which IIHS says will require more investigation. Data showed that men are involved in more fatal crashes than women. Still, 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. Interestingly, when the agency researchers limited the comparison to similar crashes, discrepancies between the sexes mostly disappeared, showing crashworthiness improvements in vehicles have benefited men and women essentially equally.

Statistics indicate women are more likely to drive smaller, lighter cars, and they are more likely than men to be driving the struck vehicle in side-impact and front-into-rear crashes. Scientists say that the difference in the odds of most injuries narrows dramatically once that is accounted for. IIHS says that the discrepancy between injury risk for men and women has prompted calls for new crash test dummies that better reflect how female bodies react to the forces of collisions and for other changes in crash test programs.

The study aimed to shed light on the issue and see what changes to vehicle testing might be warranted. In front crashes, the study found women are three times as likely to experience moderate injuries such as a broken bone or concussion and twice as likely to suffer serious ones like a collapsed lung or traumatic brain injury. In a side crash, the odds of moderate injury were about equal for both sexes, with women about 50 percent more likely to be seriously injured. Still, the agency says neither result was statistically significant. IIHS says that one explanation for prior injury rates in women is vehicle choice.

Many women crashed in minivans and SUVs in equal proportions. However, about 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 five percent of women. Men tended to crash in heavier vehicles offering more protection in collisions.