Study examines why women have a greater injury risk in crashes

As it is in most places in the U.S., the adult population of Birmingham is split pretty evenly between men and women. Despite that parity, women are much more likely than men to sustain serious injuries when they’re involved in a motor vehicle crash.

According to recent research by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), much of the heightened risk of serious injury is due to the types of vehicles women tend to drive than physical differences between the genders.

Smaller, lighter

An author of the study, Jessica Jermakian, said “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.” She adds that once those factors are accounted for, “the difference in the odds of most injuries narrows dramatically.”

In addition, researchers analyzed injury data from 1998-2015 for men and women for front crashes and side crashes:

  • Front crashes: women were three times more likely than men to suffer a moderate injury (broken bone, concussion, etc.) and twice as likely to suffer a serious injury (traumatic brain injury, collapsed lung, etc.).
  • Side crashes: the odds of moderate injuries were about the same for the two genders, though women were about 50 percent more likely to sustain a serious injury.

Digging deeper into the data

To determine how much of the discrepancy in injury risks are due to physical differences between men and women, researchers analyzed data from similar crashes: single-vehicle wrecks and two-vehicle wrecks in which both vehicles were of similar size and weight. Only crashes in which vehicles had front airbag deployment were included.

Researchers found that limiting the data to compatible front crashes “flattened the disparity considerably, though women were still twice as likely to be moderately injured and a bit more likely to be seriously hurt,” the IIHS said.

Vehicle choices

The group says that vehicle choices are an important part of women’s higher injury risks. About 70 percent of women were in wrecks involving cars, compared to about 60 percent of men. Twenty percent of men crashed in pick-ups, while less than 5 percent of women were in pick-up crashes.

This study supports earlier research that found that drivers and occupants of larger, heavier vehicles such as SUVs, pick-ups and vans tend to be safer in crashes than those who drive smaller, lighter vehicles such as compact and sports cars.

Of course, the most important factors in wrecks are the drivers. A driver who’s speeding or distracted or who runs red lights at intersections is the driver most likely to cause violent collisions that result in devastating injuries.

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