Men are more likely to die in a crash, and alcohol is just one of several reasons why.

After years of decline, U.S. highway fatalities have taken a jump in recent months, and that could be particularly bad news for men. Whether you blame testosterone or alcohol, male motorists are twice as likely to be killed behind the wheel as women, according to federal crash data.

Men tend to have more severe crashes than women, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports. But in comparable crashes, women are more likely than men to be killed or injured. Separate studies have shown young men are particularly prone to being involved in fatal crashes, and the new NHTSA report indicates that the gap between men and women narrows with age.

Federal researchers focused on crash data from 2012, a year in which 33,541 Americans were killed on the nation’s roadways. That broke down to 23,808 men and just 9,733 women.

The NHTSA study pointed to a variety of factors that could lie behind this gender gap:

  • Men put about 50% more miles on their vehicles each year than women, on average;
  • They tend to drive more aggressively, which often results in more severe crashes than for women;
  • Men also tend to be more likely to get behind the while drunk.

Nearly a quarter of the male drivers involved in a fatal crashes a in 2012 had blood alcohol levels of more than 0.08%, the point at which all states consider the motorist to be under the influence. By comparison only 15% of the female drivers fell into that category.

That may explain why the deadliest time for motorists coincides with closing time for bars. Midnight to 3 AM on Saturdays and Sundays is the 3-hour window when the largest number of highway fatalities are likely to occur.

(U.S. highway deaths suddenly spike. Click Here for that report.)

The study did not offer a break out on the impact of distracted driving which is frequently cited as the cause of about 11% of U.S. car crash fatalities.

NHTSA did note that men and women tend to have roughly the same number of less serious accidents – and in such cases, women are more likely to be killed or injured. The feds also reported that women are more likely than men to be involved in minor fender benders.

The NHTSA report found that the most likely person to be killed in a crash is the driver, at 63%, followed by passengers, at 27%. Four percent of the fatalities involved motorcyclists, with the remaining 5% involving pedestrians and bicyclists.

(Worldwide road deaths on the decline. Click Here for more.)

Drivers between the ages of 21 and 24 had the highest fatality rate, per 100,000 population, as well as the highest injury rate. Meanwhile, children between 5 and 9 had the lowest fatality rate, while those under 5 had the lowest injury rate.

The good news for men and women, young and old, is that highway deaths have plunged over the last several decades, from a 1970s-era peak of more than 56,000, to just above 30,000 in recent years. But that needs to be tempered by the latest data. The National Safety Council yesterday reported that there has been an 8% spike in fatalities, according to preliminary data, since last autumn. That increase appears to reflect the improving economy which has seen more drivers clock more miles, said the NSC.

Yet another report, issued by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, this week found that teen drivers are not just deadly on their own but that they pose a risk to everyone else on the road. According to the AAA, nearly two-thirds of those injured or killed during a crash are people other than the teen behind the wheel.

(For more on the teen driver study, Click Here.)

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