A new report by the American Journal of Public Health finds that female drivers are at a greater risk of injury or death when involved in car crashes, because seatbelts and other lifesaving devices installed in cars are not designed for their bodies.
The report said that on average, women are shorter, lighter, tend to sit in different positions and drive newer passenger cars when compared with men. Because of these factors, the odds of a woman sustaining an injury while wearing a seatbelt were 47 percent higher than for men wearing seatbelts.
One reason safety systems are designed more for the male population is that men are three times more likely to be involved in a car crash that leads to serious or fatal injuries. In recent years, however, there has been an increase in female drivers getting into these types of accidents.
Although Clarence Ditlow of the Center for Auto Safety says that the study had the right concept, it doesn’t apply to today’s vehicles. The researchers focused on crashes (and cars) between 1998 and 2008. All of the cars used in the study were an average of six years old.
“The average life of a car is around 12 years,” said Ditlow. “The study would have a lot more value if it were limited to 2000 and later model year vehicles to make sure all vehicles had female friendly airbags,” he said. Since new 2012 models are coming out now, some of the cars used in the study are almost 20 years old.
“There wasn’t even a dynamic side impact test standard in effect in 1992,” said Ditlow.
Ditlow also said that while the study did highlight the disparity between the risks for male and female drivers, that’s something the government and industry have been working on over the past three decades.
The authors of the study said in a statement that “female motor vehicle drivers today may not be as safe as their male counterparts; therefore, the relative higher vulnerability of female drivers … when exposed to moderate and serious crashes must be taken into account.”