Driving has the power to fuel rivalry. Asked who’s a better driver, women or men, the sexes will almost always defend their own side. Still, there’s a popular misconception that women cause more accidents than men. In reality, despite there being more women drivers overall, women cause fewer accidents overall, by a margin of more than 1.5 million. Unfortunately, despite being safer drivers, women consistently suffer more serious injuries than men.
Injured By Design
Why are women more likely to suffer serious injuries in car accidents than men? At the most basic level, it’s an issue of engineering. Like so many other vital products, cars are designed for men’s bodies. Adult crash test dummies are designed around an average male’s body, meaning that when women – or anyone whose body is too different from that “norm” – sits down in the car, they’re at risk. Women drivers also position their seats differently when they drive to accommodate their body shape, and as such, are categorized by vehicle manufacturers as being “out of position.”
In a similar vein, obese passengers are also more likely to be injured than others. Again, cars were not designed around the obese body, leaving these passengers at risk. Without taking into account different body types, cars put the majority of passengers at risk, protecting only a portion of drivers and passengers.
Assessing Women’s Injuries
In order to understand just how women are injured in car accidents, it helps to understand the most common injuries. According to The Nye Law Group, some of the most common injuries resulting from negligence, such as reckless driving, include traumatic brain injuries, broken bones or loss of limb, internal injuries, and spinal cord injuries. Some of these will heal quickly, while others have consequences that will last a lifetime.
One type of injury that’s especially severe among women car accident vehicles are injuries to the legs and feet. They’re also more likely to suffer whiplash than men, a serious issue since whiplash can be difficult to detect and can occur in car accidents in which the car doesn’t demonstrate any visible body damage.
It’s also important to note that pregnant women often suffer unique injuries when they’re involved in a car accident. This includes the possibility of pregnancy loss, placental abruption, uterine rupture, and a condition known as maternal shock. Pregnant women should be monitored closely if they are involved in a car accident for any sign of bleeding, chills or fever, pain, headache, or change in fetal movement.
Monitoring Women After Accidents
It’s not just pregnant women who should be carefully monitored after car accidents; all women can benefit from careful medical observation. Though some complaints are common during the first 6 weeks after an accident, injuries that last longer than that should be carefully evaluated for more aggressive treatment. Issues that may not emerge until hours or days after the accident include headaches, whiplash and whiplash-associated numbness, and back pain. Depending on the individual and the severity of the accident, victims may also experience PTSD related to the crash.
A Changing Landscape
Women may be uniquely vulnerable to car accident injuries, but the good news is that manufacturers have become aware of the problem. They recognize the problems with the existing crash test dummies, as well as the geometric scaling practices used to predict outcomes for different body types. Some, like Volvo, are using accident data to make their cars safer for all bodies. Materials experts are also working hard to better understand the behavior of fatty tissue so that they can engineer better test models and improve safety.
Automation also promises to make cars safer, simply because they may be more responsive to in-car conditions and variables in passenger size and height. Though this capability is still limited, the technology is moving in the right direction. With greater engagement on the part of car designers and engineers, women may finally be as safe riding in cars as men are.