Women are almost twice as likely as men to be trapped in a motor vehicle after an accident, and they also experience different types of injuries, the data shows.
The research – the first major UK study to compare gender differences in injury patterns and the likelihood of being stuck after a collision – could help carmakers improve car design and safety features to reduce injury rates for both sexes. It also reinforces calls for the inclusion of more biologically accurate crash test dummies in vehicle crash simulations, to study their impact on women.
Professor Tim Nutbeam, consultant in emergency medicine at Plymouth University Hospitals, and his colleagues were motivated to carry out the study after reading the best-selling book Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez., which highlighted the fact that women were more likely to be seriously injured in car crashes because crash test dummies were modeled after the “average man”.
To investigate, they looked at data from 70,027 patients admitted to major trauma centers and units across the UK between January 2012 and December 2019.
They found that although men were more likely to be involved in serious accidents and to be hospitalized, 16% of women got stuck in the wreckage, compared to only 9% of men. Women also suffered more hip and spine injuries, while men suffered more head, face, chest and limb injuries. The research was published in BMJ Open.
“I think the important thing is that it shows that women and men have different experiences of being trapped – that a trapped woman is not the same as a trapped man,” Dr Lauren Weekes said. , a consultant anesthetist at Plymouth University Hospitals, who was also involved in the study.
“Understanding gender differences in injury patterns can help paramedics predict who is most likely to have certain injuries, which could have implications for how you help them and where you end up taking them. It can also help automakers steer safety systems to protect men and women equally.
One possibility is that the nature of the women’s injuries makes it harder for them to escape the wreckage. “For example, women have a much higher rate of pelvic injuries, and it’s harder to get out of a car yourself if you’ve broken your pelvis,” Weekes said.
Differences in how men and women drive could also be a factor, with men being involved in more frontal collisions and more likely to be in the driver’s seat than women, and therefore more likely to be injured. hitting the flywheel or the air. bag. Also, if women are driving, they tend to place their seat closer to the steering wheel, which could contribute to getting them stuck.
However, differences in body shape are also likely to come into play, and these are not accurately modeled in vehicle crash simulations. Weekes said: “We know that women’s pelvises, even adjusting for height and weight, are much wider than men’s, so the crash test dummies used to simulate crashes look more like a prepubescent girl. 12 years old than an adult woman. If you think about where a woman’s pelvis is likely to be in relation to the door, it will be closer.
“Crash tests are standardized, so the data from these should be able to protect men and women equally. But if manufacturers aren’t using biologically accurate dummies, how do they know they are? »
Criado Perez said she hoped the study would also put pressure on regulators to take the issue seriously: “The EU is currently in the process of introducing new legislation, which for the first time will say that female car occupants should be as protected as male occupants. – but the UK currently has no plans to adopt it,” she said. “I really hope this kind of research catches the attention of those in government who have the power to ensure that women are no longer disproportionately and needlessly injured and killed in car crashes. “