Car safety equipment may put female drivers at risk


by Michael Pines, Accident & Injury Prevention Expert

While seatbelts and other necessary devices are designed with safety in mind, a new study says that safety equipment may actually put female drivers at risk in the event of a car accident. The American Journal of Public Health found that women, who are generally shorter and lighter than men, are less protected against

personal injury

in the event of an accident since equipment is not designed to fit smaller bodies.

Researchers explain that 47 percent of women were more likely to sustain an injury when wearing a seatbelt as opposed to men,

USA Today

reported. But the findings aren’t so much a surprise considering that safety equipment is designed primarily with the male population in mind. Understandably, car manufacturers use standardized crash dummies using population averages of height and weight to make safety equipment. However, the standardized equipment marginalizes those who are dramatically smaller or larger, thereby increasing risk to personal injury.

Car manufacturers further explain that men are three times more likely than women to get into a serious or fatal accident. Despite the manufacturer findings, the researchers found an increase of women getting into these types of accidents in recent years, even though critics of the study say the researchers failed to consider newer vehicles.

“The average life of a car is around 12 years,” said Clarence Ditlow of the Center for Auto Safety. “The study would have a lot more value if it were limited to 2000 and later model year vehicles to make sure all vehicles had female friendly airbags,” he said.

Other ways to increase car safety for women

Whether you’re a critic of the study, or side on the findings of the researchers, every woman should consider the following tips to help increase her safety behind the wheel.

Stay on top of car maintenance

Women are generally less interested in things under the hood, tires, oil changes, and the like. Be sure you stay on top of your vehicle maintenance schedule – doing so can help you avoid an accident entirely. For example, a blown-out tire or a stalled vehicle can invite an accident, especially if it happens unexpectedly. Avoid stressful situations by following a routine maintenance schedule.

Reduce your distractions

If you’re a mother with a car full of children, this tip is for you. A rambunctious vehicle can often create a distraction for the driver – therefore, it’s important to have rules in place while driving with a car full of children. And of course, it goes without saying; do not use your cell phone or text while driving.

Consider supplementing safety equipment with gender-friendly safety technology

While seatbelts and airbags have gotten heat for marginalizing some drivers including women, consider investing in gender-friendly safety devices in addition to using the standardized safety equipment in your vehicle. A back up camera can help you avoid unnecessary fender benders in addition to even saving a child’s life. An emergency response system (such as On-Star) is a great option in the event of an emergency.

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