Baby You Can Drive My Car: Men vs. Women at the Wheel
So, who are the better drivers, men or women? That's the unasked question at the core of the columns I've written the last two days.
The answer is: It depends on how you define a "better" driver.
A review of the relevant literature conducted by Susan A. Ferguson and Keli A. Braitman of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that when only fatal crashes are examined, men have higher rates of driver involvement than women: "In the United States, the rate among men is about three times the rate among women per 10,000 licensed drivers."
That's a pretty big difference. But the picture is different when looking at all crashes in the United States. Per million miles traveled, women were 12 percent more likely than men to crash.
Here are some other findings from the paper:
- Men rate the crash risk of driving situations lower than do women.
- Men are less likely to use seatbelts and more likely to drive while impaired by alcohol.
- Men are more likely to speed (though women, especially young women, seem to be catching up in this regard).
I think the most telling finding is this one: Men tend to rate their driving ability higher than women.
In a way, the data seems to reinforce a few stereotypes: Men are testosterone-filled risk takers, liable to drive into a tree and kill themselves. Women are careful drivers whose timidity gets them in all manner of fender-benders. And as far as my columns are concerned: Men are convinced that they're better drivers and thus don't like being in a car driven by a woman.
I don't think there's necessarily anything inherently gender-specific about being a good driver. It may be that having a license and driving a lot is something our society values more in a male than in a female. It may also be that women just simply don't drive as much as men. And what makes a good driver is the same thing that makes a good musician: practice, practice, practice.
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