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An analysis of 50 years of crash data by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) finds that younger women drivers, aged 21-30, are 25.9 percent more likely to die in crashes than their male counterparts of the same age.
The study also found that, later in life, women drivers are more likely to survive a crash than men drivers of the same age.
According to the report, major findings of which appeared in The Detroit News, occupants’ fatality risk, given similar physical impacts, grows by three percent or slightly more for each year that they get older, starting at about 21.
Young men, as early as age 18, have a better chance of surviving crashes than women, but that advantage “diminishes after age 35; by age 70, female and male drivers are about equally at risk,” NHTSA found.
Female passengers, on the other hand, don’t fare as well in crashes. Young women (aged 21-30) have a 29.2 percent higher likelihood of perishing in a car crash than men. Even as they get older, their likelihood of dying is still higher than men. At age 65-74, female passengers have an 11.4 percent higher chance of dying in a crash than male passengers the same age.
In the report, the NHTSA offers some observations as to the reasons for these differences. The smaller effect for drivers may be that “healthier seniors continue to drive, while less healthy seniors may ride only as passengers.” Younger men are stronger and larger than women, thus making them more likely to survive identical-force crashes. Younger women who are not wearing seat belts are more likely to be ejected from the vehicle during rollover crashes, making death more likely.
On average, the risk of women dying in crashes of the same force is 17 percent higher than men, regardless of age group and seating position.
Other study findings
After an analysis of all the data, the NHTSA report found that “all the major occupant protection technologies in vehicles of recent model years have at least some benefits for male and female adults of all age groups and none of them are harmful for a particular gender or age group. Nevertheless, seat belts have been historically less effective for older occupants and female passengers, but more effective for female drivers.”
The report also determined that frontal airbags are about equally effective across all age groups, while side airbags may be even more effective for older occupants than younger ones. In addition, the report concludes that “air bags and other non-belt protection technologies are helping females just as much and quite possibly even more than they protect males.”
As far as injuries, NHTSA says that women are susceptible to injuries of the neck and abdomen, as well as fractures of the arm and leg, with female drivers being the most vulnerable to leg fractures.
A complete copy of the 349-page report (PDF) is available here.