Is There a Gender Gap in Car Accident Deaths?

gender gap car accidents

There is a gap between how many men and how many women die in serious car accidents every year. There are a few reasons for this gender gap among car accident fatalities, and some of them may be surprising. 

Statistics on Car Accident Fatalities among Men and Women 

For every year between 1975 and 2019, the per capita passenger car accident fatality rate for men was more than twice that of women. In 2019, approximately 71 percent of passenger vehicle deaths involved male drivers. Among passengers, 48 percent of deaths were men. Men also accounted for a staggering 96 percent of large truck driver deaths. Even the numbers of motorcyclist, bicyclist, and pedestrian fatalities disproportionately involved men.  

Men Log More Miles 

Although it is difficult to say exactly why men are more likely to die in traffic accidents, experts speculate that it is in part because they drive more.  

According to the United States Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the average man drives 16,550 miles per year. The average woman drives 10,142 miles per year. That difference between the sexes exists among drivers of all ages. More miles simply mean more opportunities for an accident to occur. 

Male Drivers are More Likely to Take Risks 

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that male drivers cause more than six million motor vehicle accidents every year, whereas female drivers cause 4.4 million. Experts from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) believe this is because men are more likely to engage in risky behaviors, including: 

  • Speeding 
  • Drunk driving 
  • Texting and driving 
  • Cutting off other drivers 
  • Running red lights
  • Drowsy driving 
  • Not wearing a seat belt 

Some research seems to confirm that suspicion. In late 2020, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety studied aggressive behavior by age, gender, and behavior type. Among the respondents, 31.5 percent of men admitted to switching lanes and tailgating, compared with 21.4 percent of women. More men than women also said they have run a red light at some time. 

Alcohol is a Factor 

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also shows that male drivers are also more likely to die in DUI accidents than female drivers. Per 100,000 people, there were 5.2 male deaths for men and 1.5 for women. In 2007 alone, there were more than 625,000 DUIs issued to male drivers compared with 162,000 for women. 

This data aligns with finding from the CDC that show men are more likely to drink excessively overall. They are more prone to binge drinking, alcohol disorders, alcohol-related hospitalizations, and again, fatal car accidents involving alcohol. 

Teen Males are at High Risk of Car Accidents 

Although statistically, male drivers are overall more likely to be killed in car accidents than women, there is one age group for which that risk is especially high: teens. 

In 2019, the fatality rate among male drivers ages 16 to 19 was more than double that of female drivers the same age. The risk of a serious or fatal accident is higher among teen males who: 

  • Recently got their driver’s license 
  • Have passengers in the vehicle 
  • Are driving at night 
  • Are speeding
  • Are distracted 
  • Are not wearing seat belts 
  • Have consumed alcohol 

Because teens’ brains are still developing, they may not fully grasp the possible consequences of risky behaviors. As they grow more independent, they may be more willing to test limits. Parents and other adults who model safe driving behavior, hold teens accountable, and set good boundaries can help teens prevent fatal accidents.  

Female Drivers are Vulnerable Too, for Different Reasons 

The data mentioned above may give the false idea that women are much less vulnerable than men to fatal injuries when involved in a traffic accident. 

However, according to the IIHS, in accidents of similar severity, women are more likely to be killed. Younger women are more fragile than men of the same age. According to a study sponsored by NHTSA, the risk of a fatal accident is, on average, 17 percent higher for women than their male counterparts around the same age. 

Besides the fact that generally, women seem to be more risk-averse and less likely to engage in aggressive driving, there are two leading factors that pose a risk to female drivers and passengers. 

Crash Tests Use Male Dummies 

Every vehicle that receives a safety rating from the NHTSA must undergo four different safety tests. These tests are designed to replicate impact from front, side, and rollover accidents. It might be assumed that vehicles are tested using dummies of varying body shapes and sizes. 

However, the frontal test required by the NHTSA is performed only with a male driver dummy. Currently, no mandated test requires a female driver dummy. The most widely used crash test dummy is significantly taller and heavier than the average woman. Proportionately, it has male muscle mass and a male spinal column. 

In crash tests with a female passenger, the dummy used is essentially a modified version of a male figure, with no modifications made to account for the inherent differences between male and female muscle mass, bone density, and chest and abdominal anatomy. Therefore, if the female figure is not represented in automobile crash testing, how can auto makers design vehicles to make them safer for smaller bodies? 

Seat Belts and Airbags More Likely to Protect Men

As an example of why that is problematic, consider that based on location in the vehicle and seated position of the driver, airbags and seat belts are more effective at preventing men from making impact with the dashboard in a forceful collision.  They can cause more harm to smaller, shorter bodies, which are typically female.

How Women Sit Inside the Vehicle can Increase the Chance of Injuries 

Women are also more likely to sit closer to the dash when driving. Because their legs are typically shorter, they need to move forward to reach the pedals and the steering wheel. But this is not the standard seating position, and that slight deviation from the normal posture makes them more susceptible to:

  • Abdominal injuries
  • Neck injuries 
  • Arm and leg fractures 

It is understood that body types vary greatly from gender to gender. However, the ways in which vehicles are tested and designed should give every driver pause to consider their own safety should they be involved in a motor vehicle accident. 

The Gender Gap for Vehicle Fatalities Closes with Age 

By age 70, female and male drivers are equally at risk of injury or death in car accidents of similar impact. One reason for that leveling off is because the aging process impacts both sexes in the same ways. Both men and women become frailer with age and more prone to injuries including bruising, internal bleeding, organ damage, bone breaks, head and brain trauma, and spinal cord injuries.

Conclusion 

Although there are many variables at play when it comes to identifying gender gaps between male and female car accident fatalities at different ages, the data is clear that much can be done to protect all drivers. Education and enforcement of aggressive driving behaviors can help drivers resist the urge to speed, tailgate, and engage in other dangerous practices. 

Improvements in vehicle design, seat restraints, and crash testing can go a long way to reduce fatalities among female drivers and passengers. When drivers, law enforcement, traffic agencies, and auto makers work together, we can all make our nation’s highways safer for all. 

Philadelphia Car Accident Lawyers at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC, Advocate for Clients Injured by Careless Drivers 

If you or someone you care about been injured in a car accident that could and should have been prevented, the Philadelphia car accident lawyers at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC, are here to help you. We will determine the cause of the accident and fight to obtain the compensation you deserve. Call us today at 215-569-4888 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Philadelphia, Abington, and Media, Pennsylvania; Wilmington, Delaware; and Haddonfield, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout the surrounding areas.