Gender and Fender Benders

We’re coming to the end of a series on whether the man or the woman is more likely to take the wheel when a couple is in the car. All the evidence indicates the man is, for lots of different reasons.

Based on the number of comments this topic has generated, it seems like you are quite interested in this question. Most of you, anyway:

Who cares. What other trivia can we waste money doing a “research” on?

-?Ed

Sorry, Ed, but I’d maintain that this question is far from trivial. Even besides the cultural, social, psychological and political issues involved, I’d argue that whether the man or woman is more likely to drive is literally a question of life and death.

The reason: if women are better drivers than men, we may be sacrificing human lives because men are control freaks and women like playing computer Scrabble in the passenger’s seat.

So, at the risk of filling the comments section of this post with venom and vitriol, let’s wade into the age-old question: are men or women better drivers?

  • I’ve observed that very few middle-aged men use their turn signals. My opinion is that this odd oversight is part of the male driver ego’s pomposity (spawning trite phrases like “Road Hog,” “I own the road,” “My way or the highway,” “Woman Driver no Survivor,” etc.); even such a small display of power… is enough to explain the reason why men get in more accidents.
  • Deb

  • My dad generally drives the car… But recently, my mom finally decided his aggressive driving was too frightening… Now my mom finds a way to get custody of the keys and endures his constant instruction – because it’s better than risking death.
  • AEIOU

  • I? love to drive, my husband does not. I didn’t think anything of it until my children told me they don’t feel comfortable in a car driven by a man. They think of driving as something women do better.
  • Toronto

  • My husband usually drives when we’re out together because he THINKS he’s a better driver… Hmmm… I’ve never driven the car into the garage so as to rip off a car door I myself left open. I’ve not ripped bikes off the roof. I’ve never run into a truck, nor backed into an enormous recycling bin, crumpling the rear end. I signal. When I corner, things in the car don’t slide around. But when he drives… well, I’m glad that he has many other skills, like cooking.
  • Julie Landon

    Others, unsurprisingly, have a slightly different perspective:

  • A simpler reason [that men drive more] is one that everyone knows but no one dares to admit in our politically-correct era: women tend to be lousy drivers.
  • Miles

  • My wife…tailgates, insists on jockeying for right-of-way with much larger vehicles and generally gives me good reasons to be nervous. The few times a year that I let her drive – I always kick myself afterward.
  • Lee

  • To be honest, her driving scares me. She likes to text message (with a touch screen phone, to make it worse) while driving, she will spend 3 minutes at a time going through her iPod music looking for just the right song… she doesn’t use cruise control so her speed varies wildly while this is happening… I simply do not feel safe with her behind the wheel.
  • Justin James

  • Men drive to protect other drivers by keeping women off the road. It’s our responsibility.
  • Dan

A quick glance at the names on these comments indicates an unsurprising fact: women tend to think they are better (22 of 32 who commented), and men think the opposite (14 of 18). However, there were a few traitors to their sex:

  • We should be grateful that men do most of the driving. I don’t know why but women are, by and large, horrible drivers… I don’t have a single female friend that I would let drive my car. There I said it.
  • Valerie

  • As a working woman who drives to and from work every day I’m deeply grateful that the majority of women are passengers…Thank God for male drivers!
  • bondbabe

  • I’ve found that in general, the stereotype that women are worse drivers is generally true. I have been scared for my life in vehicles where women were driving… I hate to bring up stereotypes because it’s obviously judgmental, but…they’re stereotypes for a reason.
  • Erika

    Fortunately, on this issue we can move beyond the stereotypes. The hard numerical data tell an unequivocal story. Right?

  • Women have fewer crashes than men, when they do crash their insurance claims are lower, and they are less likely to report risky driving behaviour than men, and [thus men] are consequently charged higher rates by car insurance companies.
  • Marcia

  • Women have been statistically proven to be much worse drivers.
  • Born last century

    Hmmm, I guess men and women disagree not just about who drives better, but about how to interpret statistics. So what do the numbers really say? Coming up, I’ll give you the empirical evidence. Men or women: whom do we really want behind the wheel?


Nerf

So the point of this post was to say that you're going to have another post in the future?

Dan

None of the above?

chris hauser

uh, what do the insurance statistics say? that'll settle it.

Andrew

I see that there are a few take-aways from all of this:

1) Whether men or women are statistically better drivers should have little to no impact as to who, in a given couple, is actually a better driver. Sure, this might require a large heaping of humble pie for some people, but the better driver should probably be driving, all other factors being equal (pregnancy, illness, some pressing need, etc..).

2) However it's probably best to have the father and mother share driving responsibilities to some extent, to avoid raising children who have a set-in idea has to which sex carries the good driving gene.

Dog Lawyer

Women play a key role in a family's car buying decision.

One car magazine even says that its target audience is:

'women consumers with automotive, travel and personal safety topics'
http://crossovercars.org/crossover-of-the-year-award-to-be-given-in-detroit-tomorrow-night/

That doesn't mean that women or men are necessarily better drivers, but shows that whoever gets behind the wheel, chances are pretty good that a woman had a lot to say about the vehicle.

Joe D

Robots! (But with better software than Toyota throttles.)

Jeffrey

Men are better drivers, but women are safer drivers. Different criteria, really.

Anecdotal evidence, of course.

DanB

I wouldn't be surprised if women had less accidents than men even adjusted for their relative numbers. I'd also be unsurprised if part of that is due to them driving more slowly - if the data could be adjusted for speed I'd suspect that men are better drivers. Since they might, on average, be better drivers they might choose to drive faster which may increase their risk. So the questions need to be separated between riskier drivers and worse drivers.

Brett

I feel almost privileged to be able to avoid the opinionated comments of "I'm a better driver than..." and stick with the solid fact that I'm a better driver than my wife.

She's got narcolepsy and is often very tired and un-alert, so I take the 'safer/better driver' medal here.

Granted she does just about everything else better than me, so I better hang on to that medal tight.

Sev

Maybe the question we should be asking ourselves is this - male or female, what can be done to make bad drivers better?

Driving is a basic skill in our society, and one of our most cherished freedoms. I have a feeling most drivers aren't going to stop getting in their cars because of the statistics. We all have to travel, and we will all give ourselves a pass ("oh, well, they're not talking about me").

JohnMcG

I think my wife and I are of about equal driving ability, and I suspect it's equally distributed throughout.

When travelling together, my wife usually drives, since it's typically in the van which is the one she drives, and there's no use adjusting the seats, etc.

I tend to do the bulk of the driving on long trips because I usually know where we're going and have more endurance for it

Tim

Does being a "better driver" only include number of accidents per capita?

What about leaving enough room when you're in the right lane at a stop light so that the car behind you can get by and make a right hand turn when you're going straight?

What about moving far enough into the intersection when making a left hand turn at a stoplight so that more than just your car can make the turn once the light turns yellow?

What about proper use of the left hand lane (ie. don't drive slowly in it causing congestion)?

What about the amount of time it takes to complete a left hand turn out of a parking lot into free flow traffic?

What about not driving below the speed limit in a one-lane no-passing zone?

etc, etc, etc.

In my experience, these are all areas where men tend to be better than women.

Matt

My wife doesn't get into wrecks often (although she has more times than I), but it tends to be that she is a super-cautious driver (she'd rather stop on an on-ramp than speed up 5mph). It's hard to get into too many accidents when you're that cautious, but you tend to piss people off.

I (as an unapologetically biased observer) tend to assign more men to aggressive driving and more women to bad driving and distracted driving. They're both equally bad.

I am unashamed to say that I have had a single fender-bender, and it was partially due to aggression (trying to get around a line of stopped cars) and partially due to miscounting cars in my mirror in the other lane. She has had two... due more, as I was led to believe, to bad driving around her.

joshua

A quick review of some basic statistical principles:

1. You can NOT draw individual level conclusions from group level data.

2. Correlation is NOT causation.

3. What started off as a light hearted discussion has devolved into beating a dead horse. Move on Mr. Morris.

Edward

Psychologically speaking, men have better visual-spatial skills than women, however they also tend to be higher in risk-taking. On average men are worse drivers in the sense that they are more likely to get in accidents (due to risk-taking). However, men are better drivers in the sense that they would likely be better at successfully completing difficult driving maneuvers (due to visual-spatial skills).

Ian Bicking

I have no opinion on who drives better, but in my experience I (as a man) usually drive when the driving conditions are particularly bad. When they aren't, we drive equally (well, she probably drives more often). Also I am more likely to drive despite bad driving conditions, where she is more likely to stay home. I have more of a "the mail must get through" mentality. Also, for a given couple with two cars I notice the woman tends to drive the better/safer car.

If this pattern is generally true, then women and men could be equally good drivers in any single circumstance, but men could have more accidents because they tend to drive in worse circumstances.

Steve

Tom Vanderbilt's book "Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us)" does a great job of working through all the statistics involved in answering this question -- and sifts through tons of other car-related myths and puzzles, to boot. The short answer is that men are statistically much more likely to get into fatal accidents, but that women are more prone to minor fender-benders.

KB

Wouldn't the women who are better drivers be more likely to choose to drive?

John D

My wife and I are both good drivers. We are both less than completely comfortable passengers: we each have difficulty with the loss of control, i.e. the slightly different timing on the brake pedal, the different styles of acceleration, differences in comfort levels re: following distance. Maybe more men take the wheel because they're not comfortable as passengers?

McG

The anecdotal evidence is entertaining, but some of my colleagues share my sentiment and are concerned with the inability of this discussion to get near the heart of the matter. Is the statistical observation of men driving more than women the canary in the coal mine or is it really what we should be concerned with.