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Young women are more likely to die in a car crash than a man their age, because they are more fragile, according to a new report this month from federal safety regulators.

The study, authored by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, was not meant to determine which gender is more likely to text or speed – risky behaviors that lead to crashes, (although, young men are more likely to speed). Rather, NHTSA tried to compare how men and women fare when involved in otherwise similar crashes.

Overall, women were the most vulnerable, 17 percent more likely to be killed.

According to Paula Eisenstein of the Detroit Bureau, between the ages of 21 and 30, female drivers are 25.9 percent more likely to be killed, based on a study of 50 years of crashes in the U.S. Women passengers are even more likely to die in a crash than male passengers – 29.2 percent more likely.

The 349-page study suggests that young men tend to be brawnier and that their bodies are more likely to absorb the forces of a potentially fatal crash. The study also says that younger women who don’t wear seatbelts are more likely to be thrown out of a car, one of the biggest causes of fatal injuries.

By 35, women and men are more even in terms of likelihood of dying in a car crash. By retirement, women drivers have a better chance of surviving than men between the ages of 65 and 74.

Older female passengers, however, are still 11.2 percent more likely to be killed than men, the NHTSA found.

Eisenstein reported that the risk of death increases about 3 percent every year of a person’s life, male or female, starting around age 21. Other studies have found that an elderly woman is four times more likely to die during a crash than a 21-year-old woman.

For men, the increase is even more extreme, which could explain why the gap between men and women closes later in life. A 70-year-old male driver’s risk of death increases five-fold.

Regardless of age, automotive fatalities have fallen sharply over the last half century. According to NHTSA, highway deaths dipped to 32,367 during 2011. That was down 1.9 percent from the previous year and came in as the lowest number since 1949.

Certainly we're seeing engineering and automotive design enhance safety. But bad choices and poor judgment at critical times can nullify vehicle safety and progress at any moment. Drive responsibly so we all might live a little longer.