Seat belts have saved thousands of lives since they became mandatory safety equipment in all passenger vehicles sold in California and around the country, but the results of a recent study suggest that they protect men far more effectively than they protect women. Researchers from the University of Virginia looked at police investigations into 22,854 front-end collisions that took place between 1998 and 2015, and they discovered that women who buckled up were 73 percent more likely to be injured than men who fastened their safety belts.
The researchers took factors such as the severity of the crash, the age of the car and the age, weight and height of the occupants into consideration, and they found that women were especially vulnerable to leg, back and abdominal injuries even when they were properly restrained by a seat belt. The study concludes that more work needs to be done to find the cause of the injury disparity between male and female accident victims.
Some experts suggest that the way cars undergo safety testing could be a factor. This is because the dummies car manufacturers use to conduct crash tests are based on male physiques. According to one of the study's co-authors, the smaller dummies used to represent women in car accident tests do not reflect the many differences between male and female anatomy. These differences include the way fat is distributed, the amount of muscle mass and the shape of the pelvis.
When car accident victims were not wearing seat belts when they suffered injuries, the defendants in personal injury lawsuits may argue that damages should be reduced. When faced with claims of comparative negligence, attorneys with experience in this area might cite research like this study to show that their clients would likely have been badly hurt even if they had buckled up. Attorneys may also call on trauma specialists to support this argument.