Gender Behind the Wheel

Our most recent pop quiz in SC-200 included a blog post from the past where the author wrote about the differences between male and female study habits and grades. On my long, peaceful stroll back to my dorm from class, I reflected on this. I began to ponder about other proven differences between males and females. I immediately remembered a conversation I had with my parents at the dinner table: I have a twin brother, and we began driving at the same time. However, my car insurance cost less than my brother’s. We were the exact same age with the exact same amount of driving experience. We even shared the same car. Why did his insurance cost more than mine? Why was the risk my twin brother posed as a driver greater than the risk I posed as an eighteen year old female driver?

I have no personal opinion as to whether guys are better drivers than girls. But I’m curious to see what the statistics say.

According to DMV.Org, a website independent of government agencies, there are many statistics that support the increased insurance rate for males. First, over 70% of deaths resulting from car accidents were caused by males in 2012.  Young female passengers were slightly more likely to wear seat belts than young men. Nearly 40% of males who died behind the wheel were driving while intoxicated, and for women it was only 20%. Also, men who died in car accidents were almost twice as likely to have been speeding than women.  The article also interestingly states that men are more likely to buy cars that cost more to insure than the cars women buy.

One confounding variable could be the tendency of each gender to consume alcohol.

According to a study conducted that I found on the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, men are simply more likely to drink, and to drink more heavily, than women. Women were more likely to refrain from drinking all together than men.

So, great. Young men are more likely to get in accidents than women in many different ways. But why? Is it something biological? Does it have to do with decision making or attention span?

Based on observing my father and mother drive for my entire life, my hypothesis is that (young) men might have more confidence while driving than (young) women and therefore drive with less caution. My dad seems entirely more sure of himself than my mom does sometimes, and my dad tends to take more risks behind the wheel than my mom.

However, I also think that young women might have more ways to get distracted behind the wheel, so the causes for their crashes are more likely to be distractions than dangerous driving. For example, I often see girls adjusting their hair or fixing their nails or doing their makeup behind the wheel. These distractions could be confounding variables. But these variables would make female crashes more likely than male crashes, right? So why are young men crashing more, and paying more for insurance?

Olga Khazan of The Atlantic wrote about a study conducted and published in the Journal of Adolescent Health. Car accidents among 16-18 year old drivers who were either driving by themselves or with 14-20 year old passengers were examined. They essentially determined a few categories of causes for the accidents including car-interior distractions like cell phone use, car-exterior distractions, aggressive driving, inability to focus on driving, and reckless driving/illegal actions performed behind the wheel, such as going through stop signs.



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Surprisingly, aggressive driving was the main cause for male drivers to crash more–when there was a female in the car with them. So basically, male drivers attempt to impress females with aggressive driving, which causes them to crash! To any boys out there who think I would be impressed by dangerous driving–I’ll walk, thanks. Male drivers also experienced more interior-car distractions when there was a female inside the car. They were more distracted when by themselves, however, than when they were driving with other boys. The chart on The Atlantic indicates, though, that they were more likely to do illegal things while driving with other guys in the car.


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Females weren’t likely to ever drive aggressively according to the study, and were more likely to get distracted by car-interior distractions if a male was present in the car with them.

The article suggests that a confounding variable for the study might be increased texting behind the wheel.

A simple conclusion I was able to draw from all of these stats is that opposite sexes seem to really distract each other in the car. Teenage hormones, I suppose, are to blame. Young males are often more dangerous drivers because they are more likely to attempt to impress others with their driving. For some reason, they tend to think that dangerous driving is impressive. Hm. Boys will be boys!



6 thoughts on “Gender Behind the Wheel

  1. jgb5274

    I liked this post because we touched on this male vs. female idea in class. It caught my attention and Im sure others attention because it all relates to driving, which is extremely common for our age as we all recently began driving over the past year or two. I don’t necessarily have an opinion whether men or women are better at driving, but there are definitely cofounding variables within the genders like confidence, skill, and distractions that can create these statistics of whether a male or female causes driving accidents. Many people have a scenario in their head that “woman are terrible drivers” but according to the statistics you provided and the fact that your brothers insurance is more, that stereotype isn’t correct.

  2. vek5025

    Something that stuck out to me about your post was the part about each gender’s tendency to drink being a confounding variable. Since I am a college student who recently turned twenty one, I find this particularly interesting. In bars around State College, I will see many females that are intoxicated, but I rarely see men in such a bad state. Part of the reason may be that women typically have lower body weight and lower alcohol tolerance, but the study that you posted states that men are morely likely to drink and more likely to drink heavily compared to women. I found this article: which contradicts your article’s statement. This one shows that drinking habits between males and females have become very similar. Men on average are drinking less than usual while women on average are drinking more than usual so they are starting to show a similar trend in amount of alcohol intake on average. If there is an increase in female alcohol consumption, why is there not an increase in females being caught driving under the influence? There is not a clear answer to this so my own hypothesis might be something like females are more likely to find designated drivers or a safe way home compared to males. I wonder if this increase in female alcoholic intake will result in increased female DUIs and increased female insurance rates over the next coming years.

  3. Mary M. Brown

    Hey Molly! Great post. I found this really captivating, especially because of the stereotype surrounding women, saying that we are horrible drivers. It was interesting to read that different genders really have different interior and exterior distractions when behind the wheel of the car. I also love how you incorporated both material discussed directly in class and observations from your life at home. I actually found this article on that further supports your discussion on the effect gender has on car insurance.

  4. Alexander Nicholas Cautela

    Recently, I have heard adults saying that GIRLS’ driving insurance costs more than BOYS’ driving insurance because of texting. However, I myself don’t think that girls are more likely to text and drive than boys are (judging from personal experience). And while I think that boys are susceptible to try to impress girls with fast driving, I think that there is something inside of us that thrives off of the thrill of speeding. I too am guilty of driving fast when I think there are no cops around, but I often do this when I am driving alone. So I think this is a multi-faceted issue.
    One question I think about is: why do boys drive dangerously when they understand that this action is highly consequential? The answer is simple: sometimes, we just don’t care. The thrill of speeding is more appealing than that of driving safely, so boys (typically) act this way. The act of speeding is analogous to drug use: something that has instant gratification, but also has the potential to completely derail one’s life. Here is an interesting article I read that discusses why each gender is likely to engage in the act of speeding: Let me know what you think!

  5. Natalie Elizabeth Burns

    Great post, Molly!
    When I first started reading this article I was a little shocked because you always hear boys or men complaining how awful drivers us girls are. However, this information proves them wrong. I liked your point you made about the confidence aspect because that was the first thing I thought about when it said boys got into more accidents. I also thought about the drunk driving aspect and it could be more prevalent in boys because they liked to be in control and don’t like to ask for help. Here’s a link that lists some facts about driving and genders: .
    I wonder if maybe it could be a maturity thing as well because we are taught that girls mature earlier than boys so maybe it has something to do with that? I think that might be an interesting thing to look at!

  6. Samuel Sae Jong Lee

    First off, I like that you took this idea of gender differences from straight from class and incorporated the idea in this blog. I thought it was smart how you led into your hypothesis on teenage driving with the insurance bit because the two insurance premiums is a result of the different levels of risk associated with each gender. I liked that the important parts (hypothesis, confounding variables) were easy to locate by how you divided the paragraphs and the overall conversational flow of the blog. I thought that alcohol and distractions such as texting and driving were good confounding variables to talk about but I was left wanting more at the end of the blog. I believe that the conclusion of “opposite sexes seem to really distract each other” is a weak conclusion after all of this research into the topic and that a conclusion tying in the risk element associated with each gender mentioned in the start of the blog would have made for a stronger conclusion. Overall, very well written blog post and good job!

    Sammy Lee

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