And no, it has nothing to do with physicality, or driving ability.
Most modern vehicle crash-safety tests distinguish between adult and child protection. This makes sense based on the different seating positions and body strength/size of adults relative to children. However, rarely has the gender of adults been taken into account when evaluating crash safety standards.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has released the results of new research which provides some perspective, and the news isn't good for women, who are much likelier than men to sustain a serious injury in a car crash.
Your first thought may be that differences in physicality between males and females would explain why women are at greater risk, but this isn't actually the case. It all comes down to the kind of cars that women drive relative to men. Men tend to drive heavier, larger vehicles like pickups that offer increased protection. Conversely, last year Hyundai reported that 63 percent of the sales of its smallest crossover, the Venue, went to women.
While over 20 percent of men crashed in pickups, that figure drops to under five percent for women, who are more likely to be behind the wheel of a compact car. Men and women were found to crash in minivans and SUVs more or less equally.
Jessica Jermakian, IIHS vice president of vehicle research, said that women are "more likely than men to be driving the struck vehicle in side-impact and front-into-rear crashes."
Men are involved in more fatal crashes, yet on a per-crash basis, women are 20-28 percent more likely to be killed and have a 37-73 percent greater chance of being seriously injured in a crash. Notably, women were found to be much more likely to suffer from leg injuries based on reported crashes between 1998 and 2015.
Women were also three times more likely to sustain a moderate injury like concussion following a frontal crash. With men more likely to be in the striking vehicle, as well as a greater chance of the vehicle being something larger like an F-150 pickup, the results are perhaps not a great surprise.
On the positive side, evolving regulations have significantly improved vehicle safety for both men and women over the last few years. Volvo, known for building some of the safest vehicles in the world, recently conducted an unusual crash test of the XC40 to evaluate what happens in the event of an extreme accident scenario.
For women, although the numbers make for concerning reading, newer or larger vehicles do seem to level things out and improve the chances of walking away from a crash without serious injury.