According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 30,797 people died in fatal motor vehicle crashes across the U.S. in 2009. The Missouri Department of Public Safety reported 821 fatal motor vehicle accidents in Missouri alone in 2010.
More people are buckling up these days, but a recent study indicates there is one group that still remains vulnerable to injury in an accident. The bad news is that there may not be much they can do about it. According to a University of Virginia study published in the October edition of the American Journal of Public Health, women are more likely to be injured in car accidents than men. The disparity between genders is due in large part to vehicle safety feature design.
Researchers examined NHTSA motor vehicle accident data from 1998 through 2008. The women drivers in the study were an average of five and a half inches shorter than the men, an average of 35 pounds lighter, less likely to be overweight and more were driving newer passenger cars at the time of their accidents. Even after controlling for these and other variables, researchers found that women wearing seatbelts were 47 percent more likely to suffer injuries than male drivers wearing seatbelts. Women tended to have more spine and chest injuries than men drivers in crashes that were comparable in severity. Women also suffered more injuries in their lower extremities than men did.
Vehicle Safety Features
Researchers suggest that the reason for the higher risk of injuries for women drivers lies in the fact that safety equipment in vehicles does not take into account the differences in women’s bodies. The way that vehicle manufacturers position seat belts, for example, does not factor in women’s neck strength and musculature, their height or the differences in how women sit in car seats. Engineers usually design car safety features with men’s bodies in mind. Those differences may contribute to greater injuries by women.
Researchers noted that women were more vulnerable to injury in car accidents and that federal regulations need to focus on reducing the gender disparity in vehicle safety standards.