Sex differences in driving and insurance risk
Men and women exhibit different driving behaviours that affect their attitudes, safety and insurance risk. Many factors underpin these differences, including neurochemical structures and hormonal processes shaped by evolution, and global socialisation practices. Each plays a part in explaining why men and women drivers have very different records in relation to accidents and insurance claims.
- Differences between male and female drivers in terms of crash rates are evident in a wide range of countries, including the United States, Europe, Asia and Africa, with males being significantly more at risk than females
- Similar differences are evident regarding male and female pedestrians and accidents in the home and workplace
- The differences are not easily explained in terms of levels of competence and driving skill of men and women. They derive from more fundamental differences in specific areas of behaviour and psychological functioning
- There is extensive evidence to show that men, and young men in particular, tend to be more aggressive than women (in all known cultures) and they express aggression in a direct, rather than indirect, manner. This has a very significant impact on driving – encouraging more competitive and hostile behaviour with consequent higher probabilities of crashing
- Levels of deviant (rule-breaking) behaviour are significantly higher in men than in women. This manifests itself in a greater frequency of violation of traffic regulations, including speed limits, traffic controls, drink-driving, etc.
- Men also exhibit, on average, higher levels of sensation-seeking and risk-taking in a wide variety of settings. The basis for this well-established sex difference has a hormonal and neurochemical basis – it is not simply a product of socialisation or experience
- The differences between the sexes in terms of their risk-proneness while driving can be explained, at least in part, using an evolutionary psychology perspective. This proposes that much of neural circuitry of the human brain evolved to meet the requirements of societies and cultures very different from our own – that of the hunter gatherer – that existed for over 99% of our evolution as a species. Our 21st century skulls contain essentially 'stone-age' brains, and the brains of men are women are different in certain crucial respects
- Stone-age man did not drive. But the legacy of his hunting, aggressive and risk-taking past – qualities that enabled him to survive and mate, thereby passing on his genes to future generations – are still evident in the way in which he typically drives his car
- A report published by the Department of Gender and Women's Health at the World Health Organisation has called for recognition of these fundamental differences between men and women drivers and the development of gender-differentiated policies in relevant areas
Full references for this report.
Prepared by Peter Marsh – August 2004