CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The smaller, lighter vehicles that women more often drive, and the types of crashes they get into, may explain why they are much more likely to suffer a serious injury in a collision than men, a new study published Thursday found. Researchers from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a research group supported by auto insurers, looked into whether there was some sort of gender bias in the research into vehicle crashes or whether body type had anything to do with the injuries.
They analyzed injuries of men and women in police-reported tow-away front and side crashes from 1998 to 2015. Among the findings were that in front crashes, women were three times as likely to experience a broken bone, concussion or other moderate injury, and twice as likely to suffer a serious one like a collapsed lung or traumatic brain injury.
Men and women crashed in minivans and SUVs in about equal proportions, the researchers found. But around 70% of women crashed in cars, compared with about 60% of men. And more than 20% of men crashed in pickups, compared with less than 5% of women.
Men are also more likely to be driving the striking vehicle in two-vehicle front-to-rear and front-to-side crashes, according to the researchers.
“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,” said Jessica Jermakian, IIHS vice president of vehicle research, in a statement. “Once you account for that, the difference in the odds of most injuries narrows dramatically.”
Women were also much more likely to suffer leg injuries compared to men, which may require car safety researchers to start building crash test dummies that account more for the physical differences between women and men, the researchers noted.