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Are women safer drivers than men?

old cars unregistered women under 27s

Are women better drivers than men? You can expect a lively debate about that subject. But are women safer drivers than men? greenslips.com.au has been looking at the facts and found women are generally safer drivers than men.

Men are more likely to die in a road accident

Women make up half of the Australian population (50.7%) and 49% of drivers licence holders. Even so, men are far more likely to be killed in a road accident. In the year to July 2022:

  • 22.7% of all road deaths were female and 77.3% were male.
  • 17.4% of all road deaths were female drivers and 82.6% were male drivers.

This means men were even more likely to die in an accident if they were driving. Motorcycling deaths and injuries were overwhelmingly male.

Men more likely to have serious injuries

In the year to December 2021, 10,099 people were seriously injured in road accidents. Some two thirds (67.9%) were men and one third (32.1%) were women. This suggests men are more likely than women to suffer serious injuries, as well as death, in a road accident.

Since just under one third of injuries and less than a quarter of deaths are women, women are more likely to be seriously injured than to die in a road accident.

Trends in road accident rates for men and women

Has the balance between male and female deaths and injuries shifted over time?

We looked at road accident rates in NSW over 10 years from 2011-2021.

  • Just over a quarter (26.9%) of deaths in road accidents were women.
  • Well over a third (36.8%) of serious injuries were to women.

These long-term percentages of deaths and serious injuries are higher than those for the year to July 2022.
We looked at road accident combined deaths and injuries in NSW over 5 years from 2016-2020 for drivers and passengers.

  • Of drivers who died or were injured in road accidents, 41.4% were women and 58.6% were men.
  • Of passengers who died or were injured, 56.1% were women, 43.9% were men.

During 2016-2020, female drivers fared better than female passengers.

Does age make a difference?

It’s likely young men and women will take more risks on the road than older people. This riskiness shows up in the higher prices of green slips for younger people. We investigated whether age changes the split of deaths or injuries between the genders.
During 2016-2020, the share of female deaths and injuries stayed fairly constant around 41%. The highest death or injury rate for women was at ages 40-59 and 60-70+ and, for men, was ages 17-25 and 26-39.

Age Female Male Total Share of female deaths
and injuries 2016-20
17-25 1,171 1,713 2,884 40.6%
26-39 1,263 1,879 3,142 40.2%
40-59 1,516 2,117 3,633 41.7%
60-70+ 1,598 2,144 3,742 42.7%

Do men spend more time driving?

Are there more male drivers on the road at any one time? Perhaps men have more road accidents because they spend more time driving for work. Women may now spend less time driving to work since the pandemic. For example, women with children may choose to work at home if they can.

The ABS in Census 2016 found the average commuting distance for men was 17.7 kms and 14.2 kms for women. NGAA similarly found:

  • Men are more likely than women in the outer growth suburbs to travel long distances for work.
  • Men are more likely to work as machinery operators and drivers, technicians or tradespeople, all with the longest average commutes.
  • Some 95% of truck drivers are men.

If men drive longer distances than women, it’s worth looking at rate of death per kilometre driven.

One UK study looked at trucks or buses only. It found each kilometre driven in a truck or bus is associated with five times more deaths of other road users than each kilometre driven in a car:

  • In cars and vans per km driven, the risk posed by male drivers was double the one posed by women.
  • For truck drivers, risk posed by men was four times higher than by women.
  • With motorbike riders, risk posed by men was over 10 times higher than women to other road users.

However, a large European study of male and female drivers found women are less likely to take risks and less likely to have traffic offences, regardless of how far they drive.

This suggests it doesn’t matter that men drive further than women, but the fact they take more risks while driving.

Do women choose safer cars?

Whether women choose safer cars is a difficult question as it depends on who you ask. Nobody wants to stereotype women for choosing safe cars while men drive big, gutsy utes. One survey found only 37% of Mazda MX-5 owners are women, compared to 51% of owners of the bigger, more powerful Ford Cougar.

Of course, women who are financially comfortable can choose all kinds of cars. Women with children at home tend to choose practical, non-luxury SUVs for their perceived safety.

Carmakers say they do not and will not design cars specifically for women. They say this would put men off and deter women who don’t like being targeted (or stereotyped?). Drive compiled a top 10 of diverse makes and models that appeal to women, but it’s not clear how they compiled it:

Women’s top 10 cars

  • New Mini
  • Mitsubishi Lancer
  • Volkswagen Beetle
  • Holden Astra Cabrio
  • Toyota Echo
  • Mazda MX-5
  • Honda CR-V
  • BMW 3 Series
  • Peugeot 206
  • Mercedes SLK 230.

Driving style of men differs from women

Did you know you can recognise whether a man or a woman is driving just by the style? A virtual driving simulation analysed driver’s speed, acceleration, lane departure, braking force, accelerator pressure and steering angle. It found:

  • Acceleration, then speed, were the biggest predictors of driver gender.
  • Aggressive driving, such as sharp acceleration and speeding, was more closely linked with men.

In a Chinese study men scored higher on risky, angry and high-speed driving styles, while women scored higher on dissociative, anxious and patient driving styles. It appears neither style of driving was necessarily any safer.

Bad habits while driving

Men and women drivers tend to do other things while driving. These are distractions, so they can’t give their full attention to the driving task. However, men are more likely to take risks:

  • 62% of men (57% of women) admit to doing something dangerous while driving.
  • 46% of men (43% of women) eat a meal while driving.
  • 14% of men (7% of women) are likely to text or use social media.

The times when women do take more risks than men is, for example, when they reach back to deal with children or put on make up while driving.

Men are more likely to incur traffic offences than women. One European study  found a marked difference in attitudes to driving.

Men see fewer risks and are willing to take them. They believe they are skilled drivers, feel safer behind the wheel and driving makes them feel good about themselves. However, women tended to anticipate more negative consequences and felt less pleasure in taking these risks.

Does this mean comprehensive vehicle insurance is cheaper for women?

Comprehensive car insurance can be cheaper for women

Charging men more than women for comprehensive insurance could be seen as unfair discrimination. In Europe for example, insurers are not allowed to base their pricing on gender. In Australia, insurers are not restricted by any sexual discrimination laws.

However, men tend to make more motor insurance claims (not CTP insurance) because they crash more often.

Money compared premiums for comprehensive insurance from AAMI, Allianz, GIO and QBE. It claimed the difference in premiums for men or women was marginal. However, Mozo research claims male drivers are quoted around $90 pa more than female drivers. Differences of opinion may depend on the range of insurers used to compare premiums.

Premiums for women are not automatically lowered because they are women. Insurers charge depending on the full risk profile of a customer. For example, if a woman has made several insurance claims, she could be more of a risk than a man who has made none.

CTP greenslip insurance costs the same for men and women

There appears to be very little gender discrimination in CTP greenslips.

greenslips.com.au compared a male and female, good and bad driver, aged 45 or 23, driving a Toyota Hilux or Mazda CX5. (For our purposes, a good driver has comprehensive insurance and no accidents; a bad driver has no other insurance and has caused an accident.)

There was no evidence gender made much difference to pricing. One insurer charged an extra $3 for a good 45-year old male car driver and an extra $5 for a 23-year old bad male car driver over a year.

Meanwhile, women generally make more claims than men on CTP insurance:

  • In NSW in 2018, women made 49% of 2,936 claims (no more recent information available).
  • In Qld in 2020-21, women made more claims than men in nearly all age groups.
  • Women make 55% of all claims in SA, 20% more claims than men make.

There is more to price than gender

Your greenslip prices depend on many factors, including where you live, type and age of vehicle, distance travelled, and ages of vehicle owner and youngest driver. Prices also depend on driving history, including at-fault accidents, traffic and alcohol and drug offences, and licence suspensions. Gender is a small part of NSW CTP and not considered in other states and territories.

Ultimately, there are steps you can take to get the cheapest greenslip. You can drive a safer vehicle, stick to the road rules, make sure not to get any demerit points or, like some city dwellers – move to the country!

This is a fully updated version of an older blog: Women are safer drivers.

author image

Corrina Baird

Writer and Researcher, greenslips.com.au

Corrina used to lend her car to her kids and discovered what Ls, Ps and demerits mean for greenslips. After 20 years in financial services and over 8 years with greenslips.com.au, she’s an expert in the NSW CTP scheme. Read more about Corrina

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