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Is There a Gender Difference in Car Accident Death Rates?

November 10, 2021

gender difference car accidents

Statistically, women have a greater risk of death when it comes to car accidents or truck accidents. Women are more likely to be seriously injured, including death, than men, even though men tend to get into more car accidents. Traffic safety experts have been debating the main reason for this disparity between the genders. Recent studies, however, may shed more light on the issue so that the automobile industry and automobile safety experts can work toward making driving safer for women.

Car Accident Fatality Statistics for Women

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is tasked to collect and compile national statistics on car accidents. The NHTSA collects data on details about every accident, including how the collision occurred; the gender of who is involved; what types of injuries; what make, model, and type of vehicles; was anyone seriously injured; and were there any fatalities. In 2019, the latest year data is available, out of 36,096 car accident-related fatalities in the United States, 10,420 of them were women. The traffic accident fatality numbers for women were similar in both 2018 and 2017. Every year, approximately one million women are injured in vehicle-related accidents. This number also includes accidents with pedestrians and women riding bicycles. Women are 72 percent more likely to be injured and 17 percent more likely to die in a car accident than men. The significant difference in risk of injury between the genders has been known by the automobile industry for years.

Are the NHTSA Safety Tests the Problem?

The NHTSA tests every vehicle that is sold in the United States. If the vehicle passes four specific tests, that make and model will receive the 5-Star Safety Rating designation. Many car and truck manufacturers use this coveted safety designation in their advertising. The four tests are the following:

  • Frontal crash test
  • Side barrier crash test
  • Side pole crash test
  • Rollover resistance test

These four accident scenarios are used because they represent the majority of real accidents that occur. The complaint about the test is that on every test but one, the side pole crash test, the test is performed with a crash dummy that is designed to reflect the average-sized male body. This dummy has sensors that compile data during the test. Therefore, most of the data about the efficacy of safety devices and how they help protect the test dummy is for the average male body, not the average female body. The argument goes that vehicle manufacturers design the safety features in their cars and trucks to protect men better than women.

Further, the crash test dummies for representing the average man and woman lack any type of physiological distinctions we see between actual men and women. Although the size and weights of the dummies are different, there are no internal physical differences as would be found in real humans. The average woman, as compared with a man, has varying bone densities, muscle structures, and abdominal and chest physical differences. For example, the average female body is going to have a different reaction to a whiplash type of injury than the average male body. Whiplash injuries can cause very serious muscle, tendon, and spinal cord injuries in the neck and upper thoracic spine. Men will generally have more muscle, thicker bone structure, and will be affected by a whiplash type injury differently than a woman. However, the crash test dummies used for this type of crash do not reflect the typical female form.

Other Reasons for the Gender Difference in Car Accident Death Rates

Another reason for the gender difference in car accident death rates is that women tend to buy smaller and lighter vehicles than men. When larger, heavy vehicles get into violent collisions with smaller, lighter cars, drivers and passengers in the smaller vehicle will have a higher chance of injury and death. With more women driving smaller cars with lower overall weight, you will tend to have more serious injuries in the female group, including more fatalities. This is especially true if the safety devices such as seat belts and airbags are designed more for the average male body. The discrepancy of the data between the genders is heightened because men tend to purchase larger, heavier vehicles such as large passenger trucks and SUVs. These larger vehicles will provide more protection for their drivers and passengers, lowering the number of injuries for those vehicle types. Over the past 20 years, there has been a dramatic increase in the size of some vehicles on the road. SUVs have become much bigger. Also, passenger trucks are the largest they have ever been, in both weight length, height, and weight.

How to Fix the Problem

To fix the discrepancy between the genders in crash fatalities, auto manufacturers need to start designing smaller and lighter vehicles with safety devices that greater protection for women. This begins with having appropriate crash test dummies that provide what the average female body will go through in a collision. Congress is currently working on passing legislation that will update the testing requirements to consider the other half of the population more often in the NHTSA testing protocols.

Philadelphia Car Accident Lawyers at Nerenberg Law Associates, P.C. Help People Injured in Car Accidents

If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident, the Philadelphia car accident lawyers at Nerenberg Law Associates, P.C. have been representing car and truck accident victims for decades. Our team of dedicated legal professionals will investigate the accident and protect your rights so that you receive the compensation for which you deserve. Call us today at 215-569-9100 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Philadelphia, we serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey.