Female drivers account for slightly more than half of all the drivers in the U.S., but is that why they are more likely to suffer severe injuries than men in car accidents? The 118 million female drivers on the road may be interested to know that men are at less risk of experiencing traumatic brain injury, broken bones or concussions in car accidents. 

Yet, this lower injury risk may be related to the type of vehicle men prefer to drive, which is often bigger and heavier than the vehicles chosen by women. Keep reading to discover why women are more likely to be severely injured in car accidents.

Key Highlights
  • Women are more likely to be seriously injured than men in car accidents.
  • Females typically choose to drive cars that are lighter and smaller than vehicles that men choose to drive.
  • The female physique is generally lighter than a man’s, meaning their bodies accelerate faster in a crash.

Are women more likely to be seriously injured in car accidents?

The short answer is yes – females are more likely to be seriously injured in a car accident than men. For serious injuries such as a traumatic brain injury or a collapsed lung, women are twice as likely as men – two times as much — to experience these in a car accident, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Regarding moderate injuries, like a concussion or a broken bone, women are more likely to experience these at higher rates. In fact, females are three times as likely to suffer these injuries in a frontal car crash compared to men. 

Finally, you may want to know: Are women more likely to die in a car crash? Yes, they have a 17% greater chance of dying in a car crash than men, according to IFLScience.com. The higher risk of injuries for women exists for numerous reasons.

Vehicle designers must account for physical differences

One reason for the disproportionate difference in injury risk between men and women is that cars are designed around the male body, according to IFLScience.

For example, women are generally not as tall as men and must sit closer to the steering wheel to reach the pedals. Sitting closer to the steering wheel than recommended by manufacturers can increase the female risk of injury because they can be thrown harder against the seatbelt.

Another physical difference? Women typically do not weigh as much as men. When an accident occurs, the seat will throw a woman forward with more acceleration than a heavier man. One result is that women can experience more whiplash than men in a similar accident. 

However, if the back cushion was more pliable and less firm, it could be better for women, IFLScience says.

How does vehicle make/model affect crash rates?

While women are more likely to be injured in a crash, there may be a reasonable explanation. Research from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety suggests that the higher injury rate for women relates to the type of vehicles they prefer to drive. 

For example, women frequently drive lighter and smaller cars than men while men drive larger vehicles that provide more excellent protection. Consider that the longer front of a pick-up truck absorbs more crash energy than a shorter vehicle.

Females are also more likely than men to be in the struck vehicle instead of the striking vehicle in front-to-side and front-to-rear crashes involving two vehicles. It is revealing that when vehicle preferences and accident types are accounted for, the risk of injury for women decreases significantly, according to data. 

But Fatality Analysis Reporting System research shows male vs female driving statistics like:

  • Fewer than 5% of women crashed in pickups, which are larger and heavier than cars, compared with more than 20% of men.
  • About 70% of women crashed in cars, while 60% of men did. 
  • More men typically crashed in heavier vehicles than women within comparable vehicle classes.

Driving statistics: Males vs. females

When it comes to the front seat, women are three times more likely to be injured in an accident compared to men, according to IFLScience.com. Additionally, females are nearly three times more likely to suffer whiplash than men.

Here are a few other male vs. female statistics: 

  • Women are twice as likely to be trapped in car crash wreckage as men.
  • Females have a greater likelihood of having leg injuries than men.
  • In non-fatal accidents, women risk sustaining neck and limb injuries more than men.

Part of the issue for increased risk for women is that cars are designed around the male build. Crash test dummies – those faceless anthropomorphic test devices we are all familiar with – are based on male body structure and weight.

Do physiological differences between men and women affect crash rates? 

When car manufacturers began doing safety crash tests in the 1900s, human cadavers were used to test conditions. Eventually, crash-test dummies took over in the 1970s, but the crash-test dummy physique was designed on male body weight and height. Men typically drive more than women – the Federal Highway Administration reports that men drive 16,550 miles annually compared with 10,142 miles for women.

Safety manufacturers simply used a smaller version of a male crash-test dummy to do vehicle safety testing for women and children. Fortunately, recognition of the physical differences between men and women has picked up steam, and some scientists are working to develop a female-crash test dummy. Researchers in Sweden have developed a crash-test dummy modeled after a female physique with a smaller body mass.

Final thoughts: Are women at greater risk of fatal crashes?

Although women are at greater risk of death in a car crash than men, a factor behind that could be the type of vehicles females prefer to operate. Smaller cars provide less protection than larger trucks, so a vehicle with a larger front end provides more protection. 

It may also be time to see females crash-test dummies used in vehicle safety tests. The first female test dummy developed in Sweden provides a way forward.

Read more about 6 riskiest behaviors based on reports released by the NHTSA

Resources & Methodology


  1. Dean, Garofalo, Mann & Schultz. Why are Women at Greater Risk of Injury in Car Accidents? Accessed May 2023.
  2. IFL Science. “Meet the First Female Crash Test Dummy, Because They Somehow Haven’t Existed Until Now.” Accessed May 2023.
  3. IFL Science. “Why Are Women More Likely To Die In Car Crashes Than Men?” Accessed May 2023.
  4. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. “Vehicle Choice, Crash Differences Help Explain Greater Injury Risks for Women.” Accessed May 2023.
  5. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. “Vehicle Size and Weight.” Accessed May 2023.
  6. Safety Resource Center. “Who Causes More Car Accidents? The Data May Surprise You.” Accessed May 2023.
  7. Statista. “Number of Licensed Drivers in the United States in 2020 and 2021, by Gender.” Accessed May 2023. 


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