NHTSA Report: Newer Vehicles Shown to Significantly Reduce Gender Disparity in Crash Results

Differences in death rates between men and women decreased dramatically starting with the 2000 model year of cars, as NHTSA strengthened federal safety standards.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration today published a new report, “Female Risk of Fatal Accident for Males from Similar Physical Effects,” which updates a 2013 NHTSA study examining the risk of female mortality compared to the risk of male death in accidents with similar physical effects.

“Promoting equity, including across our transportation system, is one of the priorities of the Biden-Harris administration,” said Dr. Stephen Cliff, Director of NHTSA. “While the new NHTSA report shows a significant reduction in differences in collision outcomes between women and men, more work is required to eliminate any remaining differences.”

The new report finds that the estimated difference in the risk of female mortality compared to the risk of male death has decreased significantly in newer cars, starting with the 2000 model. The newer the vehicle, the lower the variance. The overall gap decreases from 18% to 6.3% for 2010-2020 vehicles and to 2.9% for 2015-2020 vehicles.

The declines are a direct result of NHTSA’s actions to adopt and strengthen federal vehicle safety standards for seat belts and air bags and to launch educational campaigns to improve seat belt use. The study, for example, found that less than a third of passengers wore seat belts in the crashes included in the study of 1960-2009 cars. For next year’s vehicles – model years 2010-2020 – nearly 83% of passengers wore seat belts.

Some additional key findings of the study include:

  • The estimated difference in mortality risk estimates for females versus males in the front row is 6.3% (±5.4) for 2010–2020 model vehicles, which is significantly lower compared to 18.3% (±1.2) for 1960–2009 model vehicles. The estimated difference has been reduced to 2.9% (±9.8) for the latest vehicle models (2015-2020).
  • New generations of cars equipped with dual airbags reduce the estimated mortality risk for women compared to men.
  • When passengers and drivers use the more advanced seat belts, also found in newer cars, the estimated mortality risk for women decreases compared to men to 6.1% (±4.2).

NHTSA takes several steps to ensure that any disparities in similar crash outcomes for men and women are eliminated. This includes developing new biological crash test dummies, developing sophisticated computer modeling that can assess the effects of different types of crashes on a wide range of human body types and sizes, researching the degree to which gender disparities exist in injuries such as accidents and evaluating new safety standards to remove all remaining disparities.

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