“They don’t make ‘em like they used to.” It’s an adage that is used time and time again to harken back to a day when vehicles were built like tanks and fuel contained copious amounts of lead, yet safety standards were a fraction of what they are today.
From their computers to their airbags and everything between, the contrasts between today’s vehicles and those that came before them couldn’t be any starker. But, a recently published study does an interesting job of putting these differences into context while simultaneously defining just how far we still have to come.
In a study published to Taylor & Francis Online, a group of researchers examined injury trends for drivers and passengers involved in frontal collisions in vehicles from before, and then after, model year 2009. For the purposes of the study, a frontal collision was defined as any vehicular collision involving an impact to the target vehicle from the 10 o’clock position to the 2 o’ clock position. The study took into account a wide variety of variables; from the type of vehicle involved to the age, height, sex, and even the BMI of the passengers.
The results are unsurprising. Passengers in newer model year vehicles fared better in front-end collisions than those who were in older vehicles when it came to almost every injury type. In particular, injuries to the lower extremities and skull saw the most significant decreases while risks to the ribs and sternum largely remained the same.
There was, however, one major exception. Women appear to be at greater risk of injury across all categories than men in similar types of incidents. In fact, according to one of the study’s calculations, “the odds of a belt-restrained female driver sustaining serious injuries was 47% higher than that of a belt-restrained male driver when both were involved in comparable crashes.”
While the study acknowledges the obvious biomechanical differences in male and female physiology, the auto industry would do well to examine the literature and other studies like it to create structures and systems that continue to make their vehicles safer for all passengers – men and women alike.