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Why are women more likely to be hurt in car accidents?

May 29, 2012 by Steven M. Gursten

Cars women should buy

Women have smaller bones and less bone density than men. Usually the muscles in and around the neck are weaker. These both put women at greater risk of suffering personal injury or death in a car accident.

This is an incredibly important issue, but women have been ignored for years. From male test subjects to male crash dummies, it’s about time this safety issue is being addressed. As a car accident attorney for nearly 20 years, I can tell you that I’ve also seen defense insurance lawyers abuse women in the courtroom, and watched as defense “experts” deliberately used misleading crash data, based upon male test subjects, to heap doubt on women clients who suffered serious traumatic brain injury and physical injuries.

One of the worst was Dr. Albert King, from Wayne State University, who used male professional football players to testify why my client, a female with a slight frame and build, could not have suffered brain injury in a car accident. Beyond the fact that he was deliberately comparing her (and I’m sure other women represented in auto accident litigation with other lawyers) with male professional football players who are of freakish size, speed and strength relative to the normal population. It was the tactic itself that still bothers me the most. It was deliberate and intentional and meant to reach a desired result. It was not an unbiased search for the truth. I am glad the jury rejected his testimony and saw that my client suffered a serious brain injury. The jury verdict was $2.5 million.

Women are much more at risk and susceptible to serious injury in car accidents

But what can we do about this problem if the auto industry and federal safety agencies are only addressing women’s driving safety now?

In the ABC News story, Female Crash Dummies Injured More: What Car Should Women Buy, Lynda Tran, spokesperson for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), says women’s necks, which are less muscular than men’s, make them more vulnerable to whiplash. And generally, people of a smaller stature can’t tolerate forces from car accidents as well as “full-sized men.”

The story says that General Motors has 200 dummies, each costing as much as $200,000. Of the 200, 35 are considered female. The gender of the female dummies is defined by height, weight, wider hips and chest jackets simulating breasts.

Data from these female crash dummies is starting to influence vehicle design and safety ratings. But even though the latest vehicle safety ratings for 74 vehicles by the NHTSA include men and women, it’s very difficult to figure out which vehicles are the safest for women, ABC news says.

Here’s the 5-Star Safety Ratings tool. For instance, the 2012 Nissan Versa afforded female passenger rates three stars out of a possible five stars in a frontal crash. The 2012 BMW 528i earned four stars for women driver safety.

Keep in mind, the story says: “Two out of the three of the NHTSA’s test situations presume the driver to be male: In the head-on crash and the crash into a side barrier, it’s a male dummy behind the wheel. Data for a female driver is not provided. Only in the third test situation — a side crash into a pole — is the driver female (When I told this to my exasperated wife, she suggested the gender specific test be of driver side mirrors when backing out of garages).”

Unfortunately, to figure out which cars offer the best protection in a car accident to the female driver, the user has to search all 74 safety ratings individually.

Russ Rader, spokesman for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, said that women should not be concerned that safety tests don’t represent them because the government doesn’t see a significant difference between females and males in frontal crash testing.

That’s just wrong. It’s also a shame because it shows the government and the auto industry have a long way to go in making cars safer for women drivers.

Steven Gursten is a car accident attorney and head of Michigan Auto Law. He president of the Motor Vehicle Trial Lawyers Association. Steve frequently writes and speaks on safe driving and Michigan auto laws, and is available for comment.

– Photo courtesy of Creative Commons, by Caesar Cardoso

Related Information:

Air bag safety tips for shorter drivers

What to do after a Michigan car accident

Michigan Auto Law exclusively handles car accident, truck accident and motorcycle accident cases throughout the entire state of Michigan. We have offices in Farmington Hills, Sterling Heights, Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids and Detroit. Call (800) 777-0028 to speak with one of our car accident attorneys.

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