Are Men Better Drivers or Are Women Better Drivers?
What Inspired This Research?
Often I get ideas for researching and writing about subjects from conversations I participate in or overhear. That was the case for this topic. Recently there was some discussion in comments on a hub whereby a man arrogantly stated that "everyone knows men are the best drivers, because of their superior spatial ability, which scientists have proven."
I decided to accept the challenge. Are men really better drivers than women? From my personal experience as a professional driver having observed drivers of both sexes and all ages for many hours every day, I said no they are not. I see terrible drivers of both sexes every day.
Then I was set straight by this man who informed me that men are unquestionably better drivers. I decided to see what, if anything, scientific studies and statistics gathered from traffic violation and accident reports around the United States (not the world) had to say about the subject of men versus women drivers.
Because this man who is adamant in his belief that male drivers in Great Britain (if not around the world) are superior, I included a small report on drivers in Great Britain as well. Here are my findings.
Did You Know?
Do you know that women were not yet allowed to vote when the first Model-T rolled off Henry Ford’s assembly line in 1908? Women received the right to vote 12 years later, in 1920. Women were driving before they could vote!
Driving was not considered ladylike at the time (1908), but there were a few women who valued practicality more than social rules, and so, drive they did!
Did a Man Do This?
Did Men Do These?
First the Issue of Spatial Intelligence
Men are of course the better drivers! (Shush, do not tell, but later in this article I will prove this is a fallacy.) Driving requires spatial skills and men are better at spatial skills; or so I have been told. Yes, science has said men are generally better at spatial skills, but I think, like so many things, a lot depends on the person and how many opportunities they have had to develop and use certain skills.
It turns out that studies have already been done that prove my perspective is not only accurate, but that living in a discriminatory culture also plays a big part in how well women perform at spatial skills tests and tasks.
Live Science reports that women in “patriarchal societies” do worse on spatial skills tests than women who live in matriarchal societies where women are equal or considered socially superior. The study concluded that discrimination and stereotyping are the reason most women score lower on spatial ability tests than men. When women in matriarchal societies were tested they did equally well as men on spatial ability tests.
Some men (the ones who from my PSYC background no doubt feel insecure in themselves) would like to establish that the reason women do not score as well on special ability tests as men do is because women are women -- and that is simply circular thinking. Hey, I thought men were supposed to be the more logical sex? There is no logic whatever in circular thinking. That is like saying men are superior because men say they are.
It turns out that how women think of themselves and how much confidence they have in themselves is just as important in determining their abilities as education.
It would seem to come down to what Henry Ford once said, “If you think you can, or you think you can’t, either way you are probably right.”
Women are indoctrinated in many societies to believe that men are superior and women are often ridiculed even for trying to accomplish what are considered male skills in these backward thinking societies. Needless to say, people (especially men) who migrate from these societies to more enlightened places have a difficult time getting used to progressive ideas and attitudes.
I can say from personal experience that there has not yet been what is characterized as a post-feminist era. Minoring in women’s studies, I learned about what I call a fairytale post-feminism. Despite all the hoopla about post-feminism, that era has so far never existed.
In fact, women are still discriminated against in this country so badly it is unbelievable. Women are far from having achieved equality in these United States, and so there is no validity to the existence of a post-feminist era.
It is far worse in many other countries around the world, and men who come from some of the countries where women are looked upon as inferior tend to bring their intolerant sexist ideas with them when they come to a more enlightened culture. Sexism prevents women from excelling at their natural talents and from being all they can be. The recent studies reported on by Live Science prove that.
Did Men Do These?
What Is the Advantage In Believing or Pretending to Believe That Women Are Lesser Beings?
When something is a general rule it means it applies to the majority of a particular group, but does not apply to every single individual. In other words, even though the majority of men (51% or more) score higher on spatial skills tests than the majority of women (again 51% or more), a lot of men (49%) may not be good at spatial skills and a lot of women (up to 49%) probably are. Especially if no one has told the women who are to be tested that they cannot be good at spatial tasks because women are not good at them (more circular reasoning).
Very often women are programmed to fail. Why? It would seem that some men cannot feel manly unless they believe themselves to be somehow superior to certain other people, particularly women. My psychology training tells me that these men are in reality insecure about who they are and what their true worth is. They tend to be overbearing, arrogant, and of course they are always right. Sometimes they are physically or verbally abusive. Thankfully most American men are more advanced.
Having been tested and scored high (surprising my testers because I am a woman) on spatial skills tests that were a part of my IQ tests, I do not find spatial tasks particularly challenging. It is my humble opinion that we are all gifted in certain areas regardless of whether we are male or female, and that overall we tend to balance each other out, or compliment each other with our various skills and talents.
In other words some men may be better (than women) at spatial skills and some men may be average or below average. Some women may not perform spatial skills as well as most men, but some may be average or well above average in their performance in this area, far exceeding the ability of many men. All people have a variety of skills and talents that may be similar or not, but all are useful and valuable. It is always a good thing to evaluate people as individuals rather than assuming they are all alike in any particular group.
What Are Some Examples of Spatial Skills?
Spatial skills in one example presented by a report from Johns Hopkins University, involved the ability to read a map and transfer what is seen there to the real world. I am, and have always been, extremely good at that. I taught my daughter to be good at it too. Obviously I am one woman who is above average in map reading skills. Any other women out there like me? I bet there are.
Another thing spatial skills are good for is packing suitcases, or packing moving cartons (Johns Hopkins University). I have had a lot, and I mean a lot of practice at both of those tasks. The challenge here is to determine if the suitcase or box is big enough for the objects(s) you want to put in them and if you can determine the best way to make everything fit.
Merging into heavy traffic, using mirror images, determining size or speed of objects are all spatial skills (Johns Hopkins University). Indeed, one could even say that walking requires spatial skills. After all, one must determine size, space available, speed, and distance even when walking in order to avoid running into things.
About 5600 pedestrians are killed every year, so at least some of them are not very good at spatial skills – just a minor note; studies show that most pedestrians killed are men.
My Personal Experience As a Professional Driver
Let me just say that I have had several hours of experience driving a city bus and I hold a commercial driver’s license. When I drove it was for 11 hours a day with no breaks, 5 days a week for two years. My route was especially challenging and I chose it for that very reason. It was never boring.
When I was still driving a bus it was common for people to park in the bus stop space (that has not changed). That leaves no room for the bus to pull over and pick up or drop off passengers. Why do people do that? I think determining the answer to that question (why people illegally park in bus stop zones) is more difficult than most spatial tasks.
My solution was to pull up beside the vehicle illegally parked in my space, my bus door just far enough in front of that vehicle so that the bus door would open without making contact with the illegally parked vehicle.
I would be so close to that vehicle, perhaps 6 inches or so away from it, that any person sitting in the vehicle’s driver’s seat could open their window and touch the side of my bus with little effort. You could say I got so close that another inch or two and I would have had their paint on my bus.
Can you imagine sitting in your car with a city bus just an inch or so further from your vehicle than your side view mirror sticks out? My open bus door blocked their vehicle from escape via the front.
The illegally parked vehicle was stuck where it was until I decided to move. The occupant(s) of the vehicle was usually visibly shaken, thinking what a close call s/he had survived, believing at first that it was an accident that I had gotten so close to his/her vehicle. The driver of the illegally parked vehicle was usually too horrified to even think about trying to back out of the situation, which would have been extremely challenging given how close together our two vehicles were. (Mine extended a good 20 feet back.) This situation was the case regardless of whether the driver of the illegally parked vehicle was male or female.
After the relief of not being hit by a bus settled into their minds and they saw that I was not at all upset, other thoughts seem to surface in their minds. Their initial belief – that it was an accident that I had gotten that close, started slipping away.
Once they realized it was not an accident and that I had purposely scared the living you know what out of them, the expressions on their faces usually changed. I loved watching the thought process cross their faces in my big bus-size side mirror. Once they seemed to have the correct inventory of the situation I would close my door and move on just before they could give me the one finger salute. Wicked yes? Do not mess with redheads.
Ah, but they were illegally parked, and when a person is illegally parked in every state I have ever lived in, that person is automatically at fault for any accident that involves their vehicle. Yes, I know, I have an evil gene in my body that sometimes takes precedence.
To purposely accomplish getting that close to anything with any vehicle without coming into contact with it, one must know where their vehicle is. By that I mean knowing exactly how much space one’s vehicle takes up and precisely where that space is. That is spatial intelligence.
I did that same maneuver successfully dozens of times. Yes, and many other difficult maneuvers too, but the others were not by choice, but by necessity. No, I never once got so close at a bus stop that my bus came in contact with any other vehicle, or any part of another vehicle. The trick to getting that close to another object, as previously stated, is knowing exactly where your vehicle is.
Anyone reading this who makes a habit of parking in bus stop zones should think about this before parking there again. ;)
You are probably wondering why I bored you with that story. Well, if one is going to make use of quotes one must make sure they have tons of written material that is original so as not to be unpublished for duplication.
In fact spatial skills are important to driving and my recollection about driving a bus directly relates to spatial intelligence and explains one way that spatial intelligence applies to driving.
Another advantage to telling on myself is that now I have more than a thousand words to offset the statistics and research information I am about to provide from many different sources that will prove that in fact . . .
Men Are NOT the Better Drivers
Insurance Companies will do anything to raise your premiums. They will use any excuse, but as it turns out, men provide the excuse (and the proof) for making their own car insurance premiums higher.
Car Insurance Quotes-Online.net states: “Official statistics from the TrafficSTATS 2007 study show that men are more likely to get involved in fatal car accidents than women by 77%. The study included information from FARS (Fatality Analysis Reporting System) and the National Household Travel Survey, estimating deaths per 100 million trips. The numbers were 14.61 for men and 6.53 for women (less than half), while the total number of deaths due to traffic accidents during a 6 year period between 1999 and 2005 was 175,094 men and 82,371 women.”
Women have fewer than half as many fatal accidents as men!
If men are such great drivers, why are they killing themselves like crazy with cars? Statistics show that young men are the worst of all drivers, but even when they get older their stats are not good. Keep in mind that we are talking generalities here and that there may be the occasional good male driver out there.
Miranda Hitti, writing for WebMD, reports that Amarylis Fox, a British researcher, believes that the main female hormone, estrogen, may be the reason women are generally better drivers than men. Fox said her study showed that estrogens may positively influence mental flexibility and neuronal activity in the frontal lobes (decision making and judgment), and that may be the reason women are better at paying attention while driving and abiding by traffic laws.
James Shaffer, CEO for PRNewswire.com, writes that 4autoinsurance.com released a report (May 2012) showing that “traffic violations for men are higher in every category. Be it reckless driving, failure to yield, seat belt violations, or speeding, men are always cited at a much higher ratio. When it comes to the more serious violations of driving under the influence and driving while intoxicated, male drivers still out number females [for violations] at a 3.08 to 1 ratio, “ (UPI).
Further, Shaffer writes, “In the study, 4AutoInsuranceQuote.com points out that some 80 percent of all fatal and serious car crashes are caused by male drivers,” (UPI). Wow! 80%!! That is a lot.
Shaffer states unequivocally, “. . . if you look at the statistics, females are better drivers . . . by a long shot! It's almost scary how bad the average man is at driving. Blame it on whatever you want – high testosterone, higher propensity to take risks, or higher levels of aggression, but the fact remains – men simply make too many mistakes behind the wheel,” (UPI – United Press International).
More Women Than Men Hold a Driver's License In the U.S.
As reported in USA Today, NBC News, and Huffington Post, A study by the University of Michigan's Transportation Research Institute looked at gender trends in driver's licenses between 1995 and 2010 and among other things in its report is the fact that more women than men hold a driver’s license in the U.S. They also say the gap between the number of men and women holding a license to operate a motor vehicle continues to widen. In other words, every year more women than men seek and receive a driver’s license.
The study further reports that currently women drive as many miles as men, and that gap also continues to widen as women do more of the driving.
USA Today, NBC News, and Huffington Post all Report the following:
"The changing gender demographics will have major implications on the extent and nature of vehicle demand, energy consumption, and road safety," predicted Michael Sivak, co-author of the study. Women are more likely than men to purchase smaller, safer and more fuel-efficient cars; to drive less, and to have a lower fatality rate per distance driven, he said.
More Bad Stats for Men
The Department of Transportation in New York City did a study and determined that 80% of all accidents that seriously injured or killed pedestrians were attributable to male drivers. Part of the trouble is that many men seem to think that they “own and control the road,” (New York Times).
Social scientists blame men’s horrible driving records on their predisposition for aggression and risk taking. It is a fact that men take more risks, and that taking risks plays a bigger part than driving skill, in most accidents. Indeed, the study showed that men are not only dangerous drivers overall, but that they even take more risks as pedestrians! More men were killed in pedestrian accidents, regardless of age, than women, according to the results of the New York City Transportation Department study.
For some reason men seem to believe that aggression while driving is a good thing. When interviewed by Juliet Linderman for the New York Times, 24-year old Mark Volinsky said, “On the road, I think the most important things are intuition and aggressiveness . . .” Like so many men, he suggested that women were not up to the “dog-eat-dog” driving environment despite the fact that women have fewer violations, fewer accidents, and fewer fatalities when driving – even in New York City!
Also interviewed by Ms. Linderman, Rose Pinto, a driving instructor, said, “Men are overconfident, and it is their downfall. Even if a guy doesn’t know what he’s doing, he’s more inclined to say he does, (New York Times/Region).
What do you think?
Have you changed your mind about who is the better driver, men or women?
Yes! There Is More!
Time.com reports a British study determined that women are better at parallel parking than men are. The study involved secretly videotaping in 700 parking lots and observing/recording 2500 different drivers, half women, half men.
The videotapes showed that women were more likely to locate vacant parking spaces quicker, they followed driving instructors recommendations for maneuvering into the parking spaces far more often and more accurately, and positioned their vehicles in the parking spaces better – in other words the vehicles were centered in the parking spaces.
Since spatial awareness and ability are necessary in parallel parking a vehicle, Neil Beeson, a driving instructor who designed the study said, “The results also appear to dispel the myth that men have better spatial awareness than women.”
Can you believe a man said that? And out loud too! He knew when he said it that he was talking to a reporter. Bet the men in his neighborhood hate him. ;)
The BBC reports that “men rush when parking and end up wasting time and gas driving past available parking spaces and, once they do find one, are more apt to park sloppily.”
For My British Readers
With the exception of a study on parking that was done in the UK that I referenced near the end of this article that related mainly to spatial skills, all the statistics in this article and the conclusions made as a result of those statistics relate entirely to drivers in the United States.
However some of my readers want to relate the provided statistics to their own countries outside of the U.S. for some reason. I am not sure why. I would never attempt to relate statistics from Singapore, or South Africa, or anywhere outside the U.S. to people living here. It would make no sense at all. Other cultures and people are different and very few people live in anything close to the culture we have here in the U.S. I am not saying our culture is better or worse than any other country’s culture, only that it is different.
When you compare drivers in India or Japan or Indonesia, or any other country, to drivers in the U.S., you are comparing peaches and avocados. I love them both, but they are nothing alike.
United Kingdom Statistics
There are a couple of my readers who live in the United Kingdom, and they just cannot wrap their minds around the fact that the statistics herein are entirely relatable to the U.S. only, and not to the U.K.
So I thought I would do some quick research and see what sort of statistics I might find on the subject of driving in the United Kingdom, just so these readers of mine might perhaps be more at peace.
Some of the statistics I found were a bit older than I would prefer, but clearly the U.K. does not make a habit of collecting information as frequently and using it to determine their actions in regard to insurance premiums and the like, as much as companies in the U.S.
Keep in mind that England has an area about the size of the state of Wyoming with just under 63 million people somehow all fitting in there.
The statistics I found were from JMW Solicitors LLP who apparently handle many of the auto insurance claims in the U.K., and autoblog.com. Autoblog.com was citing what they described as a recent study done by Carrentals UK. It was posted on November 8, 2012.
Given that at least one of my readers of this article (from the U.K.) is very near stroking out, popping a blood vessel, and maybe even having a heart attack over the statistics relating to male drivers in the U.S., what I found is probably going to push him over the edge. The man is already beside himself after hearing that women are better drivers than men because in his mind women are not better than men at anything.
You see, the findings in studies done in the U.K. regarding who is the safer driver, men or women, is very similar to the statistics in the U.S., though some of them are a bit older. My references for this information can be found in the reference section.
Down To the Nitty Gritty
Scott Burgess (a man) writing for autoblog.com says after examining a recent study by Carrentals UK, “Now there's proof that women are the superior drivers.”
Burgess further quotes Gareth Robinson (also a man), Managing Director of Carrentals UK as saying, "While men would like to believe they are better than women behind the steering wheel, it is clear to see that male drivers performed worse in terms of speeding fines and penalty points.”
Robinson further stated, “It seems that while men performed poorly on the questionnaire and typically had a worse track record on the roads, they [still] believed that they were good drivers.”
Now that we know more men are cited for moving violations while driving a motor vehicle in the U.K. than women are, what about car crashes?
Well, one study says when women have accidents in the U.K. they are more likely to be fender benders where no one gets hurt. When men in the U.K. pile it up, it is usually because of high speed, and it is more often a serious crash, such as a multi-car accident or a head on collision. Male drivers have more expensive insurance claims than female drivers.
Now the most recent available statistics on car accidents in the U.K.
While women in the U.K. are often branded as bad drivers, statistically women are involved in fewer car accidents than men. In 1995 women drivers were involved in 1.8 million car accidents per million miles driven compared to men drivers who were involved in 2.9 million car accidents per million miles driven.
The reason given for men having more accidents than women is the same in the U.K. as it is in the U.S. It is thought that testosterone encourages male drivers to drive more aggressively and competitively, as well as to take more risks, thus, causing more accidents and most of those accidents are of a very serious nature.
This is backed up by statistics published by Phillips 2007 Atlases stating that men account for 80% of speeding fines in the UK. Research by road safety charity Brake lists the more reckless driving habits carried out by men:
- 44% of men have used a mobile phone while driving compared to just 30% of women.
- 20% of men have fallen asleep at the wheel compared to just 6% of women.
- 22% of men revealed they would drive at 7am following a heavy night of drinking compared to just 11% of women.
In addition, 93% of convicted drunk drivers in 2003 were male. Men are also three times as likely as women to be involved in a fatal car accident and they are more likely to kill pedestrians while operating a motor vehicle.
So much for trying to ease my British reader’s pain at discovering men are the worse drivers. These are the most recent statistics I could find and I spent more than an hour trying to find newer ones, although the statistical findings of the Carrentals UK study were recent -- from 2012. Not only were statistics for drivers in the U.K. hard to find, there were not many of them either. Let us hope that male British drivers have improved over the last few years.
One thing that has changed is that more women in the U.K. are getting driver’s licenses and fewer men are getting them. That is also comparable to the U.S. with the exception that here there are already more women than men with driver’s licenses and women are driving about the same amount of miles here as men do. In the U.K. overall men still hold about 10% more driver’s licenses than women, and still drive about twice as many miles as women.
This Could Happen to YOU!
So there you have it. Women may not do as well on spatial skills tests (although women in matriarchal cultures do just as well), but they certainly do better putting their spatial awareness skills into practice when it comes to driving.
Several studies and several different driving experts, not to mention insurance statistics, make it clear that women are safer drivers and that equals better drivers. Women cost insurance companies less money in settlements and claims – and more importantly, women drivers and their passengers live longer!
While there were a few studies that seemed to indicate other results, the evidence that women are in fact better drivers was overwhelming.
Women may want to think twice before allowing a man behind the wheel of any vehicle they are planning to travel in. Clearly the male predisposition for taking risks and driving aggressively makes irrelevant and useless any high score on a spatial skills test.
20% or so of men are supposed to be the exception, so women, if you are planning a trip, look for one of the limited edition male drivers to drive you if you cannot drive yourself.
Live Science: Culture, not gender is the reason men tend to do better on Spatial skills tests
Psychology Today – Women with Confidence Do Better On Spatial Skills
Huffington Post: Women Better At Parking
Time Magazine: Women Better At Parking
United Press International (UPI)
NY Times and Stereotypes About Women
PRNewswire: Women Better Drivers
The Examiner: Study Shows Women Better Drivers
The Wisegeek on Spatial Intelligence
John Hopkins University on Spacial Tasks
WebMD on Women Drivers
USA Today on which sex holds more driver’s licenses, which sex drivers more miles and which sex drives safer
NBC News on which sex holds more driver’s licenses
Huffington Post on which sex holds more driver’s licenses in the U.S.
Carrentals UK Study Report
Claims Solicitors Statistics
Questions & Answers
© 2013 C E Clark