Recent studies show that women drivers are more likely than men to die in car crashes. The reason behind it is straightforward: trucks and SUVs are significantly more deadly than smaller cars, and men are more likely to drive those larger vehicles. This also reveals how our vehicles, and our streets themselves, are deadly-by-design.
Kea Wilson at Streetsblog USA has a great article exploring these studies, if you want a deeper dive:
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety report shows that people of all genders are roughly equally likely to survive a vehicle-to-vehicle collision — when the cars they drive are similar to one another in size. But because 40 percent of men involved in crashes were driving taller, heavier vehicles whose designs prioritize occupant survival above all else, they had a higher survival rate than women, 70 percent of whom were behind the wheel of small-format vehicles at the time of impact.
This is another data point in our false-choice car-culture. We theoretically allow everyone the freedom to travel however they want, in any kind of vehicle they want, or even on foot. But unless you drive one of the biggest vehicles available, then you’re at a significantly higher risk of death by SUV. Everyone recognizes this is a false choice, which we can see because SUVs, large vans, and pickup-trucks make up 72% of vehicle sales.
This also reveals how narrow the perspectives are that run our car culture. When you assume that everyone wants to drive a giant SUV, then it’s easy to be blind to the needs of people who don’t. Women aren’t the only collateral damage revealed by these studies. Pedestrians, bicycle riders, and anyone else who doesn’t drive a giant vehicle is vulnerable.
One possible response to this news is to try to get more women to drive bigger cars. This would only exacerbate the larger issue, which is an overabundance of giant vehicles on our streets in the first place. A better, and more ethical, response would be to make our streets safer for everyone, no matter what kind car they drive, or even if they don’t drive.