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Study suggest women may be at greater risk of injury in car accidents

Everybody knows that wearing a seat belt is important in preventing injury in the event of a car accident. But according to a new study that will soon be published in the American Journal of Public Health, seat belts may often provide less protection for women than for men.

The study looked at crash data from across the United States between 1998 and 2008. Forty-three percent of the drivers involved were female and the average age of all drivers was 26. In terms of vehicles involved, 67 percent were passenger cars, 15 percent were SUVs, 11 percent were light trucks, and 6 percent were vans.

The researchers in charge of the study found that female drivers who wore seatbelts were more likely to be injured in an accident than male drivers who wore seatbelts. In addition, belted female drivers suffered more chest and spinal injuries than their male counterparts who were involved in similar crashes. Overall, women were found to be 47 percent more likely to suffer serious injury from a car accident than men.

The factors thought to be involved in the higher risk of injury to females were their overall shorter height, lighter weight and different sitting posture. The researchers concluded that standard restraint devices may inadvertently be more designed for males than females.

The researchers called on policymakers to pursue safety designs tailored to the female population.

The question of whether the study is still valid for the vehicles made today may make the findings of the study less relevant, though, according to some sources, as many carmakers have apparently moved toward more female friendly safety designs. Additionally, other studies have shown that men are actually more likely to die in a car accident than women.

Source: USA Today, "Study: Car crash injury risk greater for women drivers," October 21, 2011.

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*Certified Specialist in Injury and Wrongful Death Litigation by the State Bar of Arizona, Board of Legal Specialization