Gender perspectives on road safety: Empowering women through awareness and action

Although it might not seem like it superficially, road safety is about more than traffic lights and seat belts. Just beneath the surface you’ll find disparities that emerge when gender perspectives come into play.

The uncomfortable truth is that women, as drivers or pedestrians, face a different set of hazards, shaped by societal structures and economic realities. These obstacles aren’t new, nor are they exclusive to a road safety context. But addressing these nuanced barriers can combine empowerment, awareness, and frankly some much-needed action.

Arming our communities with the knowledge to tailor safer spaces for everyone is the end goal here, so let’s tackle how personal responsibility can intersect with collective change to redefine road safety through a gendered lens.

Understanding the gender gap in traffic safety

The road, a symbol of freedom for many, can be an uneven playing field where gender influences experience and safety. Notably:

  • Risk Perception: Studies show that men are more likely to engage in risky driving behaviors than women, with research revealing women as generally more cautious drivers. This means that men end up in 2x the number of fatal collisions involving cars, and 12x when it comes to motorcycles.
  • Infrastructure Inequities: Traffic systems often fail to consider the varied needs of all users, including women who may prioritize well-lit parking or pedestrian paths for enhanced security.
  • Emergency Response: In crashes, women have a higher chance of fatal injury compared to men, partly due to vehicle design and safety features tailored to male body characteristics. This means that IIHS stats show a 6% dip in crash deaths for men over the past 45 years, while fatalities for women are up by 2%.

In short, it’s a man’s world, and even with the progress made in so many areas of society, some fundamental structural elements, such as how cars are crash-tested and how streets are illuminated and policed, need further reform.

Pushing for change

The complexity of the road safety issue is definitely down to the fact that it evolved from a tapestry of cultural attitudes and socio-economic factors, either hindering or enhancing one’s journey. Consider the following:

  • Societal Expectations: The pressure to conform to traditional gender roles impacts how women engage with transportation, often discouraging them from driving or biking.
  • Economic Hurdles: Access to resources plays a critical role in road safety, with lower-income individuals, particularly women, facing challenges in vehicle ownership and maintenance.
  • Legal Advocacy: The terrain becomes more navigable with support—having the twists and turns of your pedestrian injury case dealt with by a legal specialist in San Diego, or an expert in whatever region you live in, can mean the difference between vulnerability and vindication.

The pay gap is a particular problem, the influence of which is not only felt in terms of the affordability of safe, well-maintained vehicles to average women. Pew Research points out that in the US, the division here has not shifted in the last 20 years, with every dollar earned by men equating to just 82 cents for a woman.

Advocacy and action in motion

To shift gears towards a more inclusive road safety culture, the active engagement of all community members is critical. Strategic steps include:

  • Awareness Campaigns: Elevate understanding by highlighting gender-specific road safety issues through targeted campaigns. This can include exploring alternative commuting options, and regionally relevant recommendations for people in different parts of the country.
  • Policy Reform: Advocate for legislation that acknowledges and addresses the unique mobility needs and safety concerns of women.
  • Community Programs: Develop local programs that offer driving education, vehicle maintenance workshops, and support networks specifically for women. There are various federal programs of this type, but it takes individuals and communities to build on the foundations they set out.

We need to address the road safety disparity

Women and men must face facts when it comes to the road safety disparity, for both drivers and pedestrians. These stats and strats are a good starting point, but taking things further with wider engagement in your community, and working with legal experts, will empower us all.