The debate over which gender produces safer drivers has probably been around since wheeled objects were invented.
Traditionally this question has been of critical importance to car insurance companies, who need to predict driver behaviour based on categories like gender, age, education levels and other group identifiers.
The answer as far as insurers see it is cut and dried. Women tend to pay lower premiums than men, and there are even insurance companies that only offer insurance to women.
That means the debate is over? Right?
Not so fast. There are a few things to consider when looking at whether it’s men or women who are safer drivers.
Get fairer car insurance. Based on how you drive
The exact numbers will vary depending on where in the world they’re pulled from, but the basic gist here remains consistent. Men tend to get penalized more often than women for traffic infringements like driving under the influence, reckless driving, jumping stop streets or traffic lights and failing to yield.
And generally the more dangerous the violation, the more likely it is to be a man committing it. Men are up to three times more likely to be caught drunk driving or speeding than women. However, this doesn’t tell the full story. Women are more likely to engage in distracting behaviours while driving, ranging from texting to eating.
Another obvious statistic to look at in settling this debate is which gender tends to get involved in more car accidents. In stats released by Roy Morgan in 2015 it was revealed that 15% of Australia’s male population had been involved in a car accident in the previous five years. Meanwhile 16% of Australia’s female population had been in accidents in this period.
The weakness of this surprising finding is that it didn’t indicate the severity of the accidents – after all both a dented bumper and a fatal accident will generate insurance claims.
Data on fatal accidents suggests that men are substantially more likely to be involved in these, with statistics from Australia suggesting men are almost four times more at risk.
Meanwhile the types of accidents women are more likely to be involved in include hitting stationary cars and objects, particularly while parking.
Driving skills influence driver safety, and driving tests are probably the easiest way to compare driving skills between the genders. The data here shows a clear bias in favour of men. An article published in the Guardian in 2015 revealed that British women are more likely to fail their first drivers test than men for all age categories considered.
This presents something of a puzzle since it suggests that men are better drivers, at least technically and when under supervision. Meanwhile, the data we have examined so far clearly indicates that men are responsible for causing and perishing in the majority of serious accidents.
Differences in temperament
That puzzle can be pieced together fairly simply, by looking at driver temperament. Women are more risk-averse on the road, and also less aggressive. While men’s technical driving skills may be superior when they qualify for licenses, any advantage here is overridden by a more aggressive, risk-seeking approach to driving.
The importance of temperament in driver safety is highlighted when taking age into account, with younger drivers of both sexes far more likely to become involved in accidents than middle aged drivers. Unsurprisingly, young male drivers are the worst offenders. They are most likely to become involved in serious accidents, thanks to a combination of inexperience, overconfidence and aggression.
While women have not emerged from this analysis squeaky clean, it is by now clear that men are responsible for, and most seriously impacted by, the majority of dangerous driving on the roads.
However, before declaring the case closed, it is important to mention another factor that puts men more at risk of accidents than women. And that is the amount of time men spend on the road relative to women. By some estimates men drive about 30% further than women every year – and more hours behind the wheel and on the road translates into greater exposure to risk.
Does it even matter?
The answer is ‘yes’. This data, and its interpretations have real world implications. As mentioned earlier, it’s this type of data that insurance companies will use when calculating your car insurance premium. Using young, male drivers as an example – it doesn’t matter if your defy stereotypes. You’re going to be lumped in with the worst drivers of your gender and generation and charged accordingly.
This is unfortunate, because while broad patterns in driving behaviour can be generalized from groups, there are always going to be plenty of exceptions within these groups. And it is unfair to be judged or penalized for others’ behaviour without any possibility of individual assessment.
The future is here, and it’s fair
Fortunately the emergence of telematics apps has made it extremely easy to accurately track and score the behaviour of individual drivers. This data can not only be used to generate feedback and reports that can improve the driving behaviour of individuals, but can also be used to generate highly individualised usage-based insurance premiums.
UbiCar is pioneering this technology in Australia. Download our telematics app now and you can immediately start scoring your driving, winning prizes and learning how to become a better, safer driver. We’ll also reward you with fairer priced insurance rates that are based on how safely YOU drive rather than being based on your gender, age or other impersonal demographic markers which are used by traditional insurance companies.