Study: Newer cars are safer, but women more likely to be hurt in crashes

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- A new study has found that cars built in the last decade have been shown to be safer than older model vehicles, but women wearing seat belts are significantly more likely to be hurt in crashes than men.

According to a release, researchers at the University of Virginia Center for Applied Biomechanics found belted females have 73 percent greater odds of suffering serious injuries in frontal car crashes compared to belted males.

The study considers multiple factors, including the severity of the crash, age of the occupant, occupant's stature, body mass index, and vehicle model year.

"Until we understand the fundamental biomechanical factors that contribute to increased risk for females, we'll be limited in our ability to close the risk gap," said Jason Forman, a principal scientist at the center. "This will take substantial effort, and in my view, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration does not have the resources needed to address this issue."

The study also found people 66 years old or older remain particularly susceptible to thoracic injury, which likely results from increased fragility of the ribcage caused by age.

However, newer vehicles tend to show a decreased risk of injury overall.

The release says risks have gone down for skull fractures, cervical spine injuries and abdominal injuries. The risk of injury to the knee-thigh-hip area and the ankle has also been significantly reduced.

However, the risk of sternum fractures or serious rib fractures has not been significantly reduced.

"For belted occupants in frontal collisions, substantial reductions in injury risk have been realized in many body regions in recent years," said Forman. "These results provide insight into where advances in the field have made gains in occupant protection, and what injury types and risk factors remain to be addressed."

The release says this particular study focused on frontal-impact crash with occupant 13 or older wearing seat belts. It included nearly 23,000 front-end crashes involving more than 31,000 occupants, with nearly equal numbers of men and women.

The study's results were published in the journal Traffic Injury Prevention, which is an analysis of crash and injury data compiled from the National Automotive Sampling System Crashworthiness Data System for the years of 1998 to 2015.

Data used in the study came from a sample of police-reported crashes across the country.

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