“Men are better drivers than women” Ever since I was a kid, that statement was thrown around like it was a fact. I have two older brothers, who were taught to drive way before I was, so once the opportunity arose itself for me to start driving, they continuously bellowed, “women can’t drive!” Me being as feminist as they come, I couldn’t (still can’t) see what having two X chromosomes had to do with one’s ability to mechanically control a vehicle. More so however, I was confused as to where they got this idea from? Where was the evidence to prove this stereotypical belief? Quite often when I asked my brother’s or any other male why they felt this way, they will start giving me personal anecdotes, “Well when I was on the highway last week…” or “The other day I almost got into an accident with a women for…” and so on and so forth. But as we learned in class, personal anecdotal observations are weak inference, thus don’t serve as true scientific proof.
Fast forward to current day, I have my drivers license and recently purchased my first car. So I would like to think I am a good driver. Not the best, but nonetheless better than most of my male friends. Yet, I still get told I can’t drive because I am a woman. So I decided to research this ‘theory’. Is there something in the make-up of women that makes us predestined to be (allegedly) worse drivers than men? Scientifically speaking, are men really better drivers than women? In simpler words show me the studies.Within minutes of doing research on google, I realized how detrimental it is to deem things as fact without scientifically backing it. I don’t know who was the first person to claim that men are better drivers than women, but somehow decades later, women are ridiculed on the internet as being terrible drivers because they are: easily distracted, read slower than the average man (do not understand that correlation), supposedly not good at distance judgement, or my personal favorite, the claim that women just don’t care. Just typing in “women can’t drive” on the search engine led me to discover tons of weak inferences. I just about given up the hope that there was any science behind this belief, for every article/study that concluded men are better drivers, there was one saying the opposite, as well as others who say there’s no definitive relationship between a person’s sex and their driving ability. In class we learned that we can never reduce uncertainty to zero, but ‘better’ data can help reduce this uncertainty as much as possible. Plus there are a lot of third variables in play that could lead to one concluding men are better drivers than women. Which raises my skepticism. So I decided I was going to do sort of a meta-analyses of as these studies, not to necessarily get a conclusive answer, for this is an on-going debate because the findings are so inconclusive, but to know what science says.
Looking at the Research:
What we know is that, for years now (at least a decade), insurance companies have charged men more for car insurance because statistics shows that women get into lesser accidents than men. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, male fatalities have outnumbered female fatalities in car accidents 2 to 1. Furthermore, according to the American Insurance Institute men are in 50 percent more life-threatening crashes per 100 million miles driven than females.
Counter research to this, conducted by the The National Organization for Women’s Insurance Project, is the findings that men drive more than women, so therefore more accident prone/chances to get into accidents
However, none of these studies can exactly pin-point the science behind why males get into more car crashes than women. Some researchers argue the nature vs. nurture theory as being a reason. Others blame natural male biochemicals; high testosterone levels in men leads them to take greater risk while driving. An enlightening summary of the research by the Social Issues Research Centre digs a little deeper past the numbers and offers interesting insight as to why there is a disparity between females and males behind the wheel.
These factors can be split into three categories:
1. Speeding and violation of traffic laws
A number of studies have shown that men have a higher propensity to ignore traffic laws than women and be in violation of driving etiquette. In 2004, Jennifer Schwartz reported, men are four times more likely to be arrested for drunk driving than women. Even taking the fact that men drive more into account that is still a high number. Fran H. Norris, B. Alex Matthews and Jasmin K. Riad by conducting a longitudinal study with a participant size of a 1000, found that in most cases, men are less likely than women to obey other traffic laws. In her study,”Gender and age-related differences in attitudes toward traffic laws and traffic violations,” Dana Yagil discovers a major reason why this is. She finds that women tend to obey traffic laws, even when safety is not a factor because they view them as necessary, while men tend to be more skeptical of them, thus more inclined to view them as somewhat optional.
Lived experiences as well as studies highlight the fact that men tend to be more aggressive than women, in general. Research has found that this aggression flows over to their driving and behavior behind the wheel. According to Alan E. Gross and Anthony N. Doob, men are three times more likely to honk their horns on the road than women. And a number of other studies verify that men are more aggressive on the road. Needless to say, heightened behaviors of aggression can lead to not only the disregard of traffic/safety regulations but dangerous maneuvers and choices behind the wheel.
3. Sensation-seeking and risk-taking
Numerous studies find that men are more likely than women to engage in thrill-seeking activities or behaviors; sky-diving, bunjee-jumping, diving off of cliffs, and etc. So it’s no surprise that this thrill-seeking need can then be manifested by dangerous driving, this helps to explain why men tend to be faster drivers than women. A paper by M. L. Chipman, C. G. MacGregor, A. M. Smiley and M. Lee-Gosselin, found that the men, in the Ontario study, greater distances (50% more) than women yet only spent 30 % more time achieving them.
While the greater disregard of traffic laws/road safety regulations, aggressive driving, and more risk taking are all causes of more male accidents and crashes, that doesn’t necessarily give evidence that women are better drivers than men. It simply falsifies the vice-versa. This is to prove that there isn’t any concrete evidence or experimental outcomes out there that will testify that gender CAUSES a person to either be a good or bad driver. Both sexes have the capability to be great or poor drivers based on practice and confidence while behind the wheel.