THURSDAY, Oct. 20, 2011 (HealthDay News) -- Female drivers are more likely than males to be injured in motor vehicle crashes, possibly because of a lack of vehicle safety features tailored to women, a new report suggests.
For the study, the researchers examined crash data from across the United States between 1998 and 2008 in order to determine whether driver gender influenced injury risk. Forty-three percent of the drivers were female, and the overall average age of all the drivers was 36. Eleven percent of drivers were older than 60.
Passenger cars were involved in 67 percent of the crashes, followed by SUVs (15 percent), light trucks (11 percent) and vans (6 percent), according to the report released online Oct. 20 and slated for publication in the December print issue of the American Journal of Public Health.
The investigators found that female drivers wearing seatbelts were more likely to be injured than male drivers wearing seatbelts, and that belted female drivers suffered more chest and spine injuries than belted male drivers in comparable crashes.
The researchers noted "a higher risk of lower extreme injuries reported for female drivers as a result of their relatively short stature, preferred seating posture and a combination of these factors yielding lower safety protection from the standard restraint devices."
Based on these results, the study authors concluded that "female motor vehicle drivers today may not be as safe as their male counterparts; therefore, the relative higher vulnerability of female drivers when exposed to moderate and serious crashes must be taken into account," they wrote in a news release from the American Public Health Association.
The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration outlines how to buy a safer car.