Who is the better driver?

Have you read the book called ‘Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus’ by John Gray? If you have, you may also think there is a world of difference between the actions of male and female drivers.


I discovered that three online insurance companies out of twelve calculated a higher premium for a thirty-six year old man than an identically aged woman despite inputting the same information apart from name and gender. Diamond insurance specialises in women drivers and states that, “the majority of women’s motor insurance claims are the result of minor bumps and scrapes rather than the more serious accidents that men have. On average, women drive shorter distances, have lower mileage and tend to drive more cautiously than their male counterparts so female insurance claims cost Diamond less.” Notice the word ‘cautiously’. Does this infer that women are safer and better drivers than men? Time to compare this with statistics from The Department of Transport (recorded between 1999-2001) which states that 71% of adults in the U.K. hold a full car driving licence with 82% for men and 60% for women. There are 30% more crashes per mile caused by young men between 17 and 19 than women according to The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (2000). Casualties are higher for men in all ages with greater numbers of males involved above 60 years of age. It must be noted that accidents per mile for men will be greater through probability as there are more licence holders that drive higher mileages than women with an average trip length of 7.7 and 5.6 miles respectively. There has also been a substantial increase in the proportion of female car licence holders in the U.K. in every age group (except the over 70s) so with this in mind, it would be assumed that more women drivers will cause more accidents.


If Mr. Gray were to write a book entitled ‘Male drivers are from Mars, Women drivers are from Venus,’ then he’d probably focus on our behavioural responses and he’d be right to. Men lived as hunter-gatherers 1000 times longer than anything else and parallel sex differences are found in virtually all other species of animal from the sabre-toothed tiger to the five-spined stickleback (with the hamster being an exception!) Apart from evolutionary psychology, genes are important as they affect the neural circuits to the brain. Oestrogen influences the frontal lobes that are the areas of the brain stimulated by the tasks of attention and rule learning (multi-tasking). On the other hand, the lack of testosterone (linked to a shorter wedding finger) affects spatial ability for map reading and parking. The sexes are clearly designed to do different tasks and this is reflected in accidents (according to U.K. National Accident Data) caused by male drivers involved in crashes on bends, in the dark and when overtaking. Excessive speed is a likely contributing factor to the cause of these accidents that can be linked to aggression and risk-taking that’s more apparent in men with (2002) U.K. Statistics showing that male drivers caused 83% of driving offences. Women drivers have more accidents on roundabouts and slip roads that is characteristic, in part, to lack of judgement. Traditional accident records didn’t take into account mileage so accidents per mile gives a more accurate comparison considering the different distances driven by the sexes that showed (between 1996 –1998) that female drivers drove a quarter of total mileage and accounted for one third of all injury accidents. Per mile, women are involved in a greater number of accidents but men are involved in more serious crashes and fatalities. Who is the better and safer driver then? Young female drivers are safer than teenage males but women drivers in general are more careless because of their higher frequency of accidents. Taking into account skills, both sexes have different abilities that complement different areas of driving with males more suited to city driving because of their spatial ability or territorial awareness, our 21st century skulls house stone age minds but doesn’t hide the fact that we are in more serious collisions, travel faster on average than women and are more dangerous. The future will give us a clearer picture as the number of female drivers increases with mileage, that may offer us a closer comparison.

Words and film are copyright of Sotiris Vassiliou

April 2007

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