Justice

Are Women Actually Worse Drivers than Men?

April 7th 2016

By:
Almie Rose

"You're a virgin who can't drive." Those were the angry words of Brittany Murphy's Tai to Alicia Silverstone's Cher Horowitz, from 1995's "Clueless" after Cher spectacularly failed her driver's test.

It wasn't the first time a woman was accused of being a bad driver, and it certainly won't be the last. But why is that? Where does the stereotype of women being worse drivers than men come from, and how true is it?

The Daily Mail was quick to declare that science "officially" proved that women were "more dangerous behind the wheel" than men based on a 2011 study from the University of Michigan — but that's not necessarily an accurate conclusion to draw from the results.

What the study really found.

Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle of the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute examined data they gathered from pouring over police-reported crashes "ranging from property damage only to fatal" from 1988 to 2007.

The data looked at gender in 2-vehicle crashes (male-male crashes, female-female crashes, male-female crashes, and female-male crashes) in 6 different scenarios like crashing head-on or swiping on the left. They believed they would find that since men drive more than women do, men would be responsible for about 36 percent of all crashes and women for almost 16 percent. But they were surprised.

What the study found wasn't that women were unilaterally worse at driving than men, but that when it came to certain specific scenarios, women were "overrepresented," meaning that they saw far more instances of female-female car crashes than they expected — 50 percent more.

And the male-male crash scenario was "underrepresented" at 22 percent below the expectation. What this means is

Basically, a woman is much more likely to crash into another woman vs. crashing into another man — and no one knows why.

"This pattern of results could be due to either differential gender exposure to the different scenarios, differential gender capabilities to handle specific scenarios or differential expectations of actions by other drivers based on their gender," Sivak said. In an interview with ABC News he added that it "may not be possible to answer the question of why."

One hypothesis he offered in the study is that "on average, females have shorter stature than do males. In turn, driver stature affects the visibility out of the cabin."

So which gender is more dangerous on the road overall?

The study also notes that when it comes to fatal crashes by distance, male drivers outnumber female drivers. Additionally, a report from the New York City Department of Transportation showed that 80 percent of crashes resulting in death or serious injury to pedestrians were caused by male drivers.

The correlation of fatalities with male drivers is also supported by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, who reported that for every year from 1975 to 2014, the number of male crash deaths was more than twice the number of female crash deaths. In 2014, there were 9,438 female fatalities versus 23,220 male fatalities. This is believed to be because men are more likely to drive more miles than women overall (more driving = more possibilities of accidents) and because men are more likely to engage in "risky driving practices" like not wearing a seat belt and driving more aggressively.

This is why many insurance companies offer lower insurance rates for female drivers compared to male drivers, according to the DMV.

OK, so are women better drivers than men are?

Unfortunately, this is one of those questions that really can't be answered with a definitive yes or no. It isn't as though one particular gender is flawless when it comes to driving — depending on the situation, each has their weak point.