This is especially concerning considering that many popular pickup trucks lack standard advanced safety features, including automatic emergency braking (AEB), which can help prevent or reduce the severity of the kind of front-to-rear crashes that are more likely to injure women. A prior study from the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI)—an affiliate of IIHS—found that vehicles equipped with AEB, forward collision warning (FCW), and lane-departure warning (LDW) can reduce bodily injury insurance claims by 16 percent.
“AEB is the type of feature you want not only on your own car but on everyone’s car around you,” says Stockburger. “This is why CR factors both crash protection ratings and the availability of advanced crash avoidance technologies into the overall score of the vehicles we test.”
When controlling for vehicle type, vehicle size, and crash type, IIHS researchers found that women were twice as likely as men to be moderately injured and a bit more likely to be seriously hurt in a crash—especially in regard to leg injuries—but that other disparities faded. Further analysis showed that vehicles with “Good” ratings in the IIHS moderate-overlap front and side crash tests lowered the odds of some injuries for women, in some cases more than they lowered those same odds for men. The research examined single- and two-vehicle front crashes that took place between 1998 and 2015 in which a front airbag deployed and the vehicle had to be towed away.
The results also suggest that further research is necessary to determine how to prevent the specific injuries that women are more susceptible to, and that more work is needed to improve the crashworthiness of smaller vehicles. A woman in a car with a Good crash test rating might be safer than a woman in a car with a Marginal or Poor rating—but depending on injury type, vehicle type, and crash type, she still may not be as safe as a man in a car with a Good rating.
“At least until we get to a point where new technologies and changes in driver behavior combine to prevent crashes from happening in the first place, this research highlights the need for crash tests to represent those that are being injured or killed most often,” says Stockburger.
In addition, it shows the need for the NHTSA to update its outdated new car assessment program (NCAP), says Emily Thomas, Ph.D., automotive safety engineer at CR. “Consumer information programs like NHTSA’s NCAP and IIHS’s crash tests are what have provided us with the safety benefit we see right now. IIHS is already making next steps. It’s time for NHTSA to make their move.”