University Study Finds That Women Are Far More Likely Than Men to Suffer Injuries in Car Crashes

Increased emphasis on safety technology has generally reduced serious injuries in automobile crashes over the past decade. Newer automobiles have tended to exhibit a decreased risk of injury overall. Specifically, risk has decreased for skull fractures, cervical spine injury and abdominal injury. Injury risks to the knee-thigh-hip region and the ankle are also significantly reduced.

But a new study conducted by researchers at the University of Virginia’s Center for Applied Biomechanics has found that the reduction in injuries does not apply to women as much as it does for men.

Researchers examined data on frontal collision compiled from the National Automotive Sampling System Crashworthiness Data System for the years 1998 to 2015. Only occupants restrained by a 3-point belt were included. Pregnant occupants past their first trimester, ejected occupants, and crashes involving any rollover, fire, or motorcycles were excluded from the data set. The injuries of 31,254 occupants involved in 22,854 frontal crashes made up the data set.

The results showed that belted female auto occupants had 73 percent greater odds of being seriously injured in frontal car crashes compared to belted males. Biomechanical factors that may contribute to differences in injury tolerance may include bone mineral density (with earlier onset of osteoporosis in women), differences in local bone and ligament geometry, and differences in bone and ligament material properties.

Jason Forman, a principal scientist with the Center for Applied Biomechanics and lead author of the study noted that “until we understand the fundamental biomechanical factors that contribute to increased risk for females, we’ll be limited in our ability to close the risk gap. This will take substantial effort, and in my view the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration does not have the resources needed to address this issue.”

The study, “Automobile Injury Trends in the Contemporary Fleet: Belted Occupants in Frontal Collisions,” was published on the website of the journal Traffic Injury Prevention. It may be accessed here.

Filed Under: Gender GapResearch/Study


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