By Ayam Sirias
We all know the stereotype about how women are bad drivers right? You might even have had personal experiences which reinforce this, I know I have, but is it true? Well let’s explore this concept by examining point number 3 on self proclaimed metro-sexual Sam Killermann’s blog post listing of 30+ male privileges shall we and try to get to the bottom of this conundrum.
“You can be a careless driver and not have people blame it on your sex.”
Killermann’s quote above obviously is saying that men have an enormous privilege because even if they drive badly no one is going to say it is because they are men, and what a wonderful privilege this is. We can drive carelessly and recklessly all over town and people will blame it on our driving skills not our penises. However one thing about this stereotype just didn’t sit well with me and I figured it was the fact that men, by and large, pay far more annually for car insurance than women do and guess why that is. Yup, you got it, because we have a penis.
Gender Discrimination in Automobile Insurance?
Insurance companies bank on paying out the least amount possible in insurance claims each year so they must be down with the facts and stats about who really are the worst drivers; men or women. Do people who work for car insurance companies sit quietly in the background at social events while people bemuse themselves with sexist jokes on how women can’t drive, all the while sadly shaking their heads thinking, ‘If only you knew the truth’? How could so many men be wrong with their striking wit and sarcasm as they lambast their wives and girlfriends in jovial tales of how driving with the fairer sex is like a near death experience? Well the truth is men do pay more for car insurance so we must ask the question why.
According to a Forbes article sourcing a CBS news post, ‘men pay on average $15,000 more for auto insurance in their lifetime compared to women.’
These rates are traditionally thought to correspond with the fact that men get into more accidents than women do but there is more to it. According to the same Forbes article, there are many factors which go into how much you have to pay for insurance. Some things mentioned are speeding, drunk driving, being loyal to a single insurance company and even the model and age of the car you drive. Considering these factors, when we look at the statistics men seem to fail in almost all those categories. Men tend to speed more often and are more likely to drink and drive. Men are also more likely to purchase and drive more powerful vehicles which can affect your insurance costs. When is the last time you saw a woman driving a beefed up car with a V8 engine? Usually women are the passengers in those kinds of cars because the owner clearly has a lot of money. Unfortunately the stats reflect the, dare I say, stereotype that men are more reckless and bigger risk takers. You can see for yourself at articles here, here and here.
Yes men tend to be more confident, aggressive and more willing to take risks, and because of this they pay more for insurance. Do I sense a little gender discrimination? However, if we can admit the stereotype that men are more aggressive and take more risks has some truth to it can we not also examine the stereotype that women are worse drivers in the same way?
Women Can’t Drive
Before we get into actual accident statistics, let’s take a short breather and watch this video of a silly woman driver.
Ahhhh that was funny, but let’s get back to burning brake pads and twisted metal shall we.
In my searches through the ones and zeroes of the information age I came across two particular studies which were quite recent on accident statistics and gender. The first was done this year, 2013, in Australia. The article can be found here and the actual survey and its responses can be found here.
According to Private Fleet, ‘after carefully analyzing 2403 responses from men and 988 responses from women, it appears that women are actually around 40% more likely to be involved in an accident per kilometer driven.’ Yes you read that right, men may take more risks behind the wheel but when you look at the ratio of accidents per distance driven women take the real life smash up derby cake. Could the stereotypes be true? Could blaming women’s poor driving skills on their sex have statistics to back up such claims? Are Australian women really that poor at driving?
The second study I came across was done by researchers at the University of Michigan who analyzed 6.5 million car crashes in the U.S. between 1998 and 2007. Go ahead and Google that. Hundreds of articles will pop up which source that exact same research. One article states, ‘an “inordinate number” of accidents happen when both drivers are women. Researchers found that accidents in which both drivers are female made up 20.5% of all crashes, a number much higher than expected.’ Wait a minute… much higher than expected? How much credit are we giving women drivers these days?
While sifting through all these articles it was funny to see how the authors couldn’t agree on whether or not the Michigan research proved that women actually are worse drivers or that men are as reckless as we have always assumed. Some authors tried to justify why women were in far more accidents than expected by saying it was because they were shorter or, because they drive less often, they lack the confidence. This may be true, but one particular info-graphic caught my attention which also sourced the Michigan research. It is embedded below. This article seemed to take a more pro-female approach to the data and this doesn’t surprise me as it was written by an insurance company. Can’t have men believing they are actually better drivers than the insurance companies say they are, especially considering the price men have to pay for it.
Source: Shift Insurance
Now go over that graphic and try to find the error they made when quoting the real statistics on the 6.5 million accidents. I won’t tell you specifically what it is but see if you can identify it yourself. After you spot it, direct your attention to the chart halfway down which states the amount of car accidents per miles travelled for men and women of different age groups. Of all the information there I thought these statistics, if accurate, would be the most revealing on who actually has more accidents.
The chart states that of men and women between the ages of 16 and 19, men were in 4,257 crash involvements for 46.4 billion miles driven whereas women were in 1,852 crash involvements for 35.2 billion miles driven. I don’t know in what time frame these particular statistics were taken because I could not find the original source they grabbed this information from. I tried following the sources listed at the bottom of the graphic but per usual ended up going in circles and running into broken links. It does seem to me that measuring the miles driven in the billions is an awful lot but I am no expert on these things. Maybe they added a zero or two in the process, who knows. But, if the ratios are accurate we can make them smaller as to be a little easier on the eyes, and that is just what I did.
Go back and look at the ratios of accidents to miles driven for each age group. I reduced the ratios and put them in a graph below.
A few things stand out. By far the most dangerous drivers are men and women between the ages of 16 and 19 with men being almost twice as likely to get into accidents per miles driven. However when both sexes reach the ages between 30 and 59 they become much safer drivers and the difference between the sexes reduces dramatically. In that age group men were only 30% more likely to get into accidents per miles driven. The ratio for men was 1:56m and women 1:79m (m = million km). But the real meat of these statistics lies in the overall totals. When we add up all the numbers and reduce the ratio to single digits we get, men at roughly 1:4 and women 1:6 for accidents per miles driven. Is this difference big enough to justify the $15,000 more men pay in a lifetime for automobile insurance? Maybe, maybe not. Perhaps the insurance companies know best.
Summary and a Privilege Reversal
So what did I learn from all of this? Well for one, a lot of the statistics seem to contradict over the years but not all. Some reinforce stereotypes that women are bad drivers, some do not. Some indicate men are more reckless others do not but one thing that made me chuckle was a glaring fact that indeed, women are beginning to catch up to men when it comes to the amount of accidents they have including fatal ones. Perhaps women can thank feminism for helping them gain the confidence to drive more aggressively by breaking down stereotypes, so now that yellow light fast turning red looks more like a challenge than a warning. Yay for feminism!
But this blog post isn’t over until I address the obvious male privilege Mr. Metro-sexual stated that inspired this piece:
“You can be a careless driver and not have people blame it on your sex.”
Well sir, as I have shown, men too suffer from stereotypes in regards to being called reckless and taking unnecessary risks behind the wheel. I am indeed a man and have never been in an accident in my life while driving. But really… do men actually get away with some kind of grand privilege when it comes to driving simply because they are men? Tell that to the millions of competent male drivers that have to pay more money for auto insurance just because they are men. Or is this men’s own fault because, you know, all men are reckless and risk takers right? Further, the stats also show that the old stereotype stating women are bad drivers does have a ring of truth to it. Can you hear it?
Now I will end with my reworking of male privilege number 3, and there might be a couple one could pull from all this, but for now how about for female privilege number 3:
“You can be a careless unconfident driver and still pay less for auto insurance simply because of your sex.”
Hey, call me reckless and a risk taker any day if it means I can pay less to drive. Enjoy your privilege women, while you can.
Next time I tackle point number 4 from the dummy list which states:
“You can be confident that your coworkers won’t assume you were hired because of your sex.”
Video blog that corresponds with this blog post is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aivoTcGAwqg
Authors Note: The numbers in the graph should represent miles not kilometers.