Men and Women: What Happens Behind the Wheel

Julia Novakovich  |


The debate won’t ever end; who is safer behind the wheel, who has higher insurance premiums, who gets into more accidents and why. There have been arguments about whether or not it’s safe for women to drive as long as there have been cars. Are men or women safer behind the wheel? Well, it depends on who you ask.

Overall Accidents

When we start talking about who is the riskiest on the road, it’s important to remember that the answer isn’t men or women: it’s teenagers. Fewer teens have licenses than any other demographic, but they crash at three times the rate of other drives, according to the International Institute for Highway Safety. Within teens, though, teen boys are twice as likely to be fatal victims in a car crash as teen girls.

When we start to look at older drivers, it’s important to note that men drive more than women overall. The Federal Highway Administration says that men drive 40% more miles a year than women do, on average. Men are also responsible for a higher number of DUIs, traffic violations, and general collisions than women. But when you look at how many accidents per mile both men and women get, they are about as likely to be in an accident.

Distracted Driving

Distracted driving is a huge risk factor for accidents, from teenagers up through the oldest drivers. Texting is the most common culprit, although talking on the phone while driving is sometimes said to be just as distracting as texting. People don’t always realize this; texting directly interferes with your vision while driving, which makes the risks obvious.

Talking while driving seems natural – but takes your mind off the drive and focuses it somewhere else. Talking on the phone while driving roughly doubles your risk of an accident, but texting makes you six times as likely to have an accident.

Along with texting and talking, the act of eating and drinking beverages while behind the wheel presents serious safety risks for the passengers of the vehicle as well as other drivers. Many European countries passed legislation banning eating while driving.

Studies show that women engage in texting or eating while driving more often than men, meaning that their driving is more likely to be distracted in this way. Using your phone is said to be a factor in more than a quarter of the vehicle collisions that happen in the United States every year.

Who Pays More For Car Insurance

It’s generally agreed that men pay more for car insurance – especially men under 25 – but how much more men pay than women depends on where they live. In Wyoming, men can expect to pay 20% more on their insurance premiums than a woman with the same driving record. Across the border into Montana, however, men are only paying a 1% difference. It’s probably not worth moving, but you never know.

Who Commits Traffic Violations

Here’s a poorly kept secret: men and women both commit traffic violations in similar numbers – but the rules of the road that they break are different. As said above, women are more likely to text while driving, while men are more likely to speed and take corners hard. Of course, all of these can lead to serious accidents.

Why Does It Matter?

Some drivers might wonder why it matters whether men or women are better drivers. After all, shouldn’t the various traffic and safety administrations just be working to make our roads safer? But there are many different reasons that gender does matter.

  • Insurance premiums are determined by the insurance company’s belief that the insured person might have an accident, and the insurance company would need to pay out a claim. If insurance companies believe (because of statistics) that men, on average, are more likely to be in an accident, then they will pay more for their insurance.
  • The various institutions that promote safety initiatives and work to keep roadways safe for all drivers suggest laws and promote campaigns to educate drivers about safety. For example, they have been instrumental in creating graduated licenses for teens, which have helped lower the number of accidents for teenagers. Similarly, they need to target their campaigns appropriately. They may target ads about texting while driving towards women and young girls, while focusing ads about speeding on men, particularly younger guys.

But of course, no driver should expect their gender to keep them safe while driving. All drivers should keep their phones put away while on the road; silence them if you need to. Be aware of driving conditions, and slow down in inclement weather. Use headlights and windshield wipers as appropriate. Know the local driving laws, and follow them.

For parents of teens, even if your state hasn’t adopted a graduated license policy yet, it’s a good idea to limit when, where, and with whom your teen can drive until they’ve proven themselves to be solid, reliable drivers. Even as you lift restrictions, remind them of certain factors that can impair their ability to drive; mobile phones, too many people talking in a car, and being in unfamiliar areas. And of course, no one should ever get behind the wheel if they’ve been drinking or using drugs. Some medications can also impair a person’s ability to drive.


DISCLOSURE: No financial interests.


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