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UVA Study Shows Women and Seniors at Greater Risk of Car Crash Injuries


A team of engineers at the University of Virginia reviewed data from nearly 23,000 crashes and concluded there are some big problems with car safety systems.   Women and people over 65 are at extra risk.

Based on crash data from accidents that occurred over 17 years, the Center for Applied Biomechanics at UVA saw areas of dramatic improvement in protecting drivers and passengers.

“We did see significant improvements – especially in lower extremity injuries.” 

And lead scientist Jason Forman found a decrease in skull fractures, injuries to the spine and abdomen. The ribs and sternum, however, are still at great risk of fracture, especially in those over the age of 65.

“Older people tend to become fairly fragile in their chest, and they aren’t able to bear the load applied by the shoulder belt nearly as well.”

And there’s a big gap between men’s and women’s risk of injury.

“After controlling for things like the severity of the collision, the stature of the occupant, the body mass index and the vehicle model year, females still carried 73% greater odds of sustaining a serious or fatal injury.”

The problem, he says, is studies have focused on men, and even now we don’t know why women’s bodies should be more vulnerable.

“The federal government does have a program in place right now to develop the next generation of female crash test dummy.”

New computer models could also help design better protection for men and women of all body sizes, but Forman says it will take time and resources to make those improvements.  

***Editor's Note: The University of Virginia is a financial supporter of Radio IQ.

Sandy Hausman is Radio IQ's Charlottesville Bureau Chief
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