- A new report from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety finds that women are at a higher risk of being injured or killed in crashes than men are when involved in crashes of a similar severity.
- Though more men than women are injured and killed in car crashes, women are more likely to be injured in any given crash than men in a crash of similar severity would be, the study found.
- IIHS explained that the discrepancies are due to differences in the cars many women drive and the circumstances of the crashes they are involved in—not physiological differences between men and women.
The not insignificant risk of being involved in a serious car crash is one of the hard truths of life for those who rely on cars for fun and transportation. New cars are safer than they have been at any point in the past, but people are still hurt and killed in car crashes every day. What’s disturbing is that, although men get in more car crashes, women are more likely to be injured. A new study from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) explains the discrepancy, and it’s not physiological: it’s down to vehicle size and type as well as what kind of crashes are involved.
The insurance group found that about 70 percent of women in crashes were in cars rather than larger vehicles, compared with about 60 percent of men, while 20 percent of men were in pickups, compared with less than 5 percent of women. So, even though more men are injured in car crashes overall, and even though men tend to engage in riskier behavior and drive more miles on average than women do, women are still at higher risk of being hurt in crashes that, statistically, men are likely to escape from unscathed.
When researchers compared police-reported front and side crashes that occurred between 1998 and 2015, they found that women were three times as likely to suffer a moderate injury and twice as likely to suffer a severe injury as men. But by narrowing the evaluation to what researchers called “compatible” crashes—front crashes involving either a single car or two cars of similar size and weight—they found that the discrepancy in injuries between women and men shrank significantly. The sample size was too small to run a study on side crashes between compatible vehicles.
Even in the sample group that showed a similar risk of injury between men and women overall, women were more likely to suffer a moderate lower body injury. IIHS said women were 2.5 times as likely to have moderate leg injuries and 70 percent more likely to have serious leg injuries compared with men. That’s a gap that IIHS says could be closed with targeted safety improvements by manufacturers.
Researchers say that overall, the variance in risk is related not to physical differences between men and women but to differences in behaviors and vehicle choice. In two-car crashes, men are more likely to be driving large, heavy vehicles (especially pickup trucks), which offer more protection for occupants. And men are more likely to be in the striking vehicle than in the vehicle being struck, which also corresponds to a lower risk of injury.