Highway Safety:

Causes of Injury in Automobile Crashes

PEMD-95-4: Published: May 9, 1995. Publicly Released: May 9, 1995.

Additional Materials:


Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800

Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed highway safety, focusing on: (1) the most important predictors of injury in an automobile crash; (2) how the risk of injury in a crash is affected by the severity and type of crash, automobile size, safety belts and airbags, and the occupants' age and gender; and (3) areas for further reducing automobile occupants' crash injury risks.

GAO found that: (1) the most important determinants of driver injury in car crashes are speed at impact, the type of crash, safety belt use, driver age and gender, and automobile weight and size; (2) injury is more likely in high-speed crashes, one car crashes, frontal crashes, and rollovers; (3) occupants of heavier and larger cars are less likely to be injured, but those cars pose a greater danger to persons in multivehicle crashes; (4) heavier cars offer more protection in one-car nonrollover and multivehicle crashes, but occupants of these cars are subject to more injury in rollovers than are occupants of lighter cars; (5) although safety belts reduce injury risks overall, they are most effective in rollovers, single car crashes, and frontal crashes; (6) air bags are only effective in frontal crashes and are less effective than safety belts alone; (7) although they are involved in fewer crashes overall, female and older drivers are more often injured than male and younger drivers are in similar crashes; (8) safety belts are not as effective for women as they are for men; (9) female and older drivers are involved in more multivehicle crashes and male and younger drivers are involved in more single car crashes; (10) older drivers tend to be involved in more side impact crashes; and (11) the government and manufacturers are working to improve automobile safety for each category of driver.

Oct 29, 2020

Sep 30, 2020

Sep 8, 2020

Sep 2, 2020

Aug 20, 2020

Aug 18, 2020

Aug 10, 2020

Jul 27, 2020

Looking for more? Browse all our products here