New Study Finds Severity Of Crash Injuries In Women Not Coz Of Any ‘Lack Of Driving Skills’

The reason most women get hurt worse than men in car accidents is the size of their cars. Will we stop calling women 'bad drivers' now?

The reason most women get hurt worse than men in car accidents is the size of their cars. Will we stop calling women ‘bad drivers’ now?

This piece was originally published on the Women’s Web Hindi channel and was translated into English by Aditi Singh Kaushik.

The lighter the vehicle, the higher are its chances of being hit worse in a car crash. And quite often, women are the ones who are driving these lighter cars making them more prone to injury than men in car crashes. 

According to a new study, women who drive smaller and lighter vehicles are more likely to get injured in a car crash than men. After the study was published, researchers at the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS) probed into it. This was done in order to find out if it was influenced by some gender bias. 

The researchers analysed men and women’s injuries who got into police-reported tow-away car crashes and side crashes from 1998 to 2015. They found that in front crashes, women were three times as likely to experience a moderate injury while they were twice as likely to suffer serious injuries. As for side crashes, the odds of moderate injury were equal for both men and women. 

Women are more prone to get hurt due to car sizes

The research also found that men and women crashed in minivans and SUVs in equal proportions. According to it, “Seventy percent of women crashed in cars, compared to about 60 percent of men. More than 20 percent of men crashed in pickups, compared with less than 5 percent of women.” 

Jessica Jermakian, Vice President of IIHS and one of the authors of the study said, “Our study shows that today’s crash-testing programs have helped women as much as men. That said, we found that women are substantially more likely to suffer leg injuries, which is something that will require more investigation.”

The research states that women often drive smaller and lighter cars. It also states that women are 20 to 28 percent more likely than men to be killed. At the same time, women are 37 to 73 percent more likely to be seriously injured after adjusting the speed and other factors. 

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‘Numbers indicate that women often drive smaller and lighter cars and that they are more likely to be driving the struck vehicle in side-impact and front-into-rear crashes. However, once you account for these, the difference in the odds of most injuries narrows dramatically,’ Jermakian stated. 

Does the research show a gender bias?

Though the research focuses on women and them driving smaller and lighter cars being the reason for their injuries, it also states that ‘Women were also more likely to suffer leg injuries compared to men. This may require car safety researchers to start building crash test dummies that account more for the physical differences between men and women.’

Though mentioned earlier the research also states that more men crashed in pickups than women. This aspect of the research needs to be highlighted as well. 

Women’s driving and their ‘skills’ have been mocked and critiqued by everyone for a really long time now. The ‘jokes’ on women being irresponsible drivers are deeply entrenched into our psyche. We are conditioned, socially, to believe that women are bad drivers who cannot be trusted in the front seat. 

Why must driving be gendered?

At the same time, we also need to design better vehicles that fit the needs of both men and women, especially women. Instead of blaming women and their ‘smaller and lighter’ vehicles, maybe designing cars suited to women could be a possible solution! Moreover, in this time and age, driving really doesn’t need to be gendered. 

It isn’t just about the vehicle designs that prevent many women from driving bigger vehicles. In fact, it is the fact that most of these ‘bigger’ cars are usually marketed for men.

This is very obvious from various car advertisements on TV where a man is usually (read: always) seen driving a car while the woman is in the passenger seat. Very rarely do we see women driving cars even in pop culture and even when they are shown driving, it is either to mock them or they are driving smaller cars. 

This only goes on to reinforce the notion that bigger cars are typically meant for men and not women. A lot of aspects need to be taken into reaching a conclusion as to why women drive ‘smaller and lighter’ vehicles. However, we can definitely start small and stop making jokes about women and their driving skills! 

Picture credits: Still from Hindi TV series Kumkum Bhagya


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