Like the old "chicken and the egg" conundrum, people are still pretty much at odds as to who's the better driver, although there isn't a shortage of opinions. Ask each gender who they think rules the road and for the most part, they'll adamantly stand by their own ilk. So what do the professionals have to say?
Well, gender is still a factor for most insurance companies when deciding policy price, and highway safety statistics for 2004 indicated that more men than women (particularly between the ages of 16-24) are involved in fatal car accidents. (Insurance.com, n.d.; Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, n.d.) However, before all the women out there honk their horns in celebration, statistics also show that while men do tend to have more accidents, the frequency has remained relatively stable over the years. With more women obtaining their driver's license over the last three decades, the number of car accidents they're involved in has risen. In fact, 2004 statistics have also shown that when accidents were matched in terms of severity, female deaths were much more prevalent.
Whether you spend most of your mileage driving down a busy city street or cruising idly on a country road, it's probably safe to say that you're no stranger to road rage, whether you've been the recipient or the "benefactor". This, of course, begs another question: which gender is more likely to cut people off and "flip" the occasional "bird"? Interestingly, in a study on male and female college students, Deffenbacher et al. (2003) discovered that men reported much more driving aggression as well as risky behaviors, often expressing their anger on the road in a very unconstructive manner. Gender differences, however, were relatively small. Although women are more likely to follow speed limits and less likely to take risks while driving (Elliot et al. 2003; Li, 1998), it appears as though the gap between the sexes may be closing.
For quite some time, women have arguably been the unspoken rulers of the road; they were thought to be much more cautious, despite the 1991 Thelma and Louise antics. Unfortunately, highway safety statistics, at least in the United States, aren’t so supportive of this belief. All in all, while it would still be rather premature to put this age-old question to its final rest, it would probably be safe to say that we could all use a little more common courtesy on the road.
1. Deffenbacher, J. L., Filetti, L. B., Richards, T. L., Lynch, R. S. & Oetting, E. R. (2003). Characteristics of two groups of angry drivers. Journal of Counseling Psychology. 50(2), 123-132.
2. Elliott, M. A., Armitage, C. J., & Baughan, C. J. (2003). Drivers' compliance with speed limits: An application of the theory of planned behavior. Journal of Applied Psychology. 88(5), 964-972.
3. Insurance.com (n.d.). Are Men Better Drivers Than Women? Retrieved January 25, 2006, from http://www.insurance.com/Article.aspx/artid/259.
4. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (n.d.) Fatality Facts 2004: Gender. Retrieved January 26, 2006, from
5. Li, G. (1998). Are female drivers safer? An application of the decomposition method. Epidemiology, 9, 379-384.