Women who wear seat belts are 47% more likely to be injured in a car accident compared with men who wear seat belts, according to a study by the American Journal of Public Health.
That dramatic difference has to do with the way car safety systems are designed, at least in older models, according to ABC News. On average, women are shorter and lighter than men, so the likelihood of injury from airbags increases. Other factors, such as differences in seating posture, also increase the likelihood of injury for women.
One-size-fits-all safety systems on older vehicles also play a role. According to ABC News, men are more than three times as likely to be involved in a car crash that leads to serious injury, an indication that car companies design safety systems on a law of averages methodology.
The study, however, only involves cars built between 1998 and 2008. These types of injuries for women don’t occur with newer cars, according to Clarence Ditlow of the Center of Auto Safety.
Newer vehicles have dual-depth or dual-stage driver and passenger airbags and weight sensors that change the force of the airbag depending on occupant size, seat belt use and seat placement. These types of airbags became standard on all light-passenger vehicles after the 2007 model year, according to Consumer Guide. “The study would have a lot more value if it were limited to 2000 and later model year vehicles,” Ditlow told ABC News.
Still, if you’re operating vehicle without advanced airbags, it’s important to take into account the heightened risk of injury if you are a female driver.