Who’s better behind the wheel?

SCCA Pros Teach the Newbies

The Eternal Question: Who’s Better Behind the Wheel?

Few men would have the guts to admit that their girlfriends, wives or female friends are better drivers than they are. It’s simply taken for granted among men that they know the rules of the road better than their female counterparts. While competitive driving leagues like NASCAR and IndyCar are male-dominated, and there is some scientific evidence to support the notion that men have faster reaction times and better spatial judgment than women, it may surprise you to learn that the question of who is better behind the wheel is still being debated.

Accident Rates Per Miles Driven
If you’re a younger guy, regardless of your driving history, chances are you cringe every time you pay your car insurance bill. There’s a reason your rates are so high: You’re paying for the sins of your peers. Among all demographic groups, young men are the most likely to be involved in serious car accidents.

The Teenage Issue
According to recent data, teen-age males suffer an average of nine deaths per 100 million miles traveled, compared with five for teen-age females. Fatal crash rates per 100 million miles decline sharply for both sexes as drivers age, falling to a rate of 1.6 for both men and women aged 60 to 69. This suggests that men become far less aggressive as they age, catching up to women by the time they’re ready to retire. Death rates for both sexes increase again after age 70, to about 4 per 100 million miles, a phenomenon attributable to age-related ailments like poor eyesight.

A Learning Curve
So does this mean that male drivers learn more as they age–that they’re more adaptable and willing to shed bad habits behind the wheel? Actually, yes. Another Insurance Institutes For Highway Safety study that measured long-term changes in accident rates among certain demographic groups found that as women drove more miles per capita between 1970 and 2003, the incidence of serious accidents involving women increased markedly. Female accident-related deaths increased by 14 percent even as male deaths decreased by 11 percent, indicating that women have become more careless behind the wheel. Men, meanwhile, seem to be dialing back their reckless driving habits, leading some to wonder if young men pay too much for car insurance.

Smash-Ups Or Fender-Benders?
Another important study sheds more light on the issue. Although men in general are three times more likely to get into fatal car accidents, this number is skewed by the recklessness of younger male drivers. More importantly, it turns out that men and women are equally likely to get into accidents of any type. In other words, although crashes involving male drivers tend to be more serious, females are far more likely to get into fender-benders.

Age Matters
What’s more, female drivers’ accident rates increase with age, so that women are actually more likely to get into crashes of any type after age 35. Think about this the next time you let your girlfriend parallel park!

The question of who wins the battle of the sexes behind the wheel is as old as the automobile. Thanks to modern safety studies, we finally know the answer–well, kind of. While men are more likely to die behind the wheel, women have a much greater chance of banging up their cars in general. Keep that in mind next time a female friend questions your driving habits!

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Guest author Patricia White is a freelance blogger and is writing on behalf of www.carinsurance.org.uk.