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Women are safer drivers


The jury is out: women are generally safer drivers. They have fewer road accidents so are less likely than men to be injured or die in one. Men are more likely to drive recklessly, choose racier vehicles and drive for work, often in more dangerous vehicles. However, the price of your greenslip depends on many more important factors than gender.

Men have more accidents than women

Women make up half of the Australian population and slightly more than half (52%) of drivers licence holders are women. Even so, men are overrepresented in road accidents where somebody is killed or seriously injured.

We looked at accident rates in NSW for men and women who were seriously injured or died during 2015-2019. Women always fared better as drivers. However, more women than men died or were seriously injured when travelling as passengers. Motorcycling deaths and injuries were overwhelmingly male.

During 2015-2019:

  • 65,781 drivers died or were seriously injured
  • 45.5% were women and 54.5% were men
  • 15,710 passengers died or were seriously injured
  • 59.5% were women and 40.5% were men.

Men are more likely to die in accidents

Next we looked at long-term trends in deaths to see whether the balance between male and female deaths had shifted at all. For example, whether there were any effects from driving safer cars or new road safety strategies.

1996 = 28.9% female
2006 = 24.6% female
2009 = 27.8% female
2016 = 25.5% female
2019 = 22.7% female

On average, about a quarter (25.9%) of deaths in road accidents from 1996-2019 were women. It appears there are no effects from driving safer cars or road safety strategies.

In the year to October 2020, 26% of all road deaths were female and 74% were male. In the same year, 22.2% of all road deaths were female drivers and 77.8% were male drivers. This means men are even more likely to die if they are the drivers.

Men are more likely to have serious injuries

In the year to March 2020, 10,574 people were seriously injured. Some two thirds (65.7%) were men and one third (34.3%) were female. This suggests men are more likely than women to suffer serious injury in a road accident.

Since one third of injuries are women, compared to one quarter of deaths, women are more likely to be seriously injured than die in road accidents.

Does age make a difference?

You could argue that young men and women are more likely than older people to take risks on the road. This riskiness shows up in the price of a green slip for younger people. We investigated whether age does change the split between the genders.

In fact, there was not much change in the ratio between female and male deaths and injuries during 2015-2019. The highest crash rate for women was at ages 17-25 and 40-59 and for men was ages 26-39 and 60-70+.

  Female Male Total Ratio
17-25 6,428 7,346 13,774 46.7% female
26-39 8,687 10,695 19,382 44.8% female
40-59 9,598 10,935 20,533 46.7% female
60-70+ 4,903 6,522 11,425 42.9% female

Are there more male drivers on the roads?

You could also argue the reason men are overrepresented in road accidents is because they spend more time driving. There is some truth in this as men are more likely to drive for work. Some 95% of trucks have a man at the wheel.

Australian Bureau of Statistics looks at average commuting distances for men (17.7kms) and women (14.2kms). It found men were more likely to work as machinery operators and drivers, technicians or tradespeople, who all have the longest average commutes. In 2016, only 1.4% of motor mechanics were women.

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. There is evidence to suggest women with financial means choose all kinds of cars. If they have children, they tend to choose large SUVs because of perceived safety.

RACV compiled a list of models and which gender preferred them. The biggest differences between male and female preferences were found in these models:

Models most and least preferred by women

  • Holden Barina (small) – 68% female
  • Ford Ka (small) – 68% female
  • Volkswagen Polo (small) – 67% female
  • Toyota RAV4 (midsize SUV) – 61% female
  • Subaru Forester compact crossover SUV 30% female
  • Ford Escape (small SUV) – 35% female
  • Nissan X-Trail (crossover SUV) – 40% female.

Men who drive for work don’t have a choice about which vehicle they drive. One UK study found men pose a much higher risk to other road users for five of six vehicle types. For example, trucks are involved in one in six deaths of other road users.

If men drive longer distances than women, it is worth looking at rate of death per kilometre driven. The study 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. 

Driving style of men differs from women

It’s possible to recognise whether a man or a woman is driving just by the style. One study analysed speed, acceleration, lane departure, braking force, gas pedal pressure and steering angle. It found:

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

In another 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.

In a UK poll, men confessed to having all kinds of bad driving habits. In each case, they were more likely to have these bad habits than women. Here’s a selection:

Habit Women Men
Eating while driving 25% 25%
Smoking/vaping while driving 13% 17% 
Undertaking 11% 17%
Not indicating 12% 14% 
Tailgating 5% 8%

Comprehensive car insurance is cheaper for women

You might think charging men more than women for comprehensive insurance would be unfair discrimination. In Europe for example, insurers can’t base their pricing purely on gender. In Australia, insurers are not restricted by any sexual discrimination laws.

According to Canstar, men under 25 paid $267 more than women under 25 for comprehensive insurance in NSW in 2020. This was an even bigger gap than in 2019, when it was less than $200.

Men also make more claims. For example, men made two thirds of car insurance claims in 2018 in the UK. Royal Automobile Association of South Australia found men had made 10,000 more claims than women over 3 years. Last, one news item found young men faced a much higher excess than women when claiming on Coles car insurance. IAG defended this by saying men make more claims.

CTP greenslip insurance costs the same

It appears there is little if any gender discrimination in CTP greenslips. While Allianz asks for the gender of the youngest driver, it does make a noticeable difference to their quotes.

We compared two types of driver, a good and a bad driver, age 57 or 24, driving the same vehicle. There was no evidence gender made a difference to pricing by any CTP insurer, at least for these examples.

Meanwhile, the number of claims made on greenslips by men and women is about the same:

  • In NSW in 2018, women made 49% of 2,936 claims
  • In Qld, women made 53% of claims as at June 2020.

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 the picture.

Ultimately, gender is not something anyone can easily change. But to get the cheapest greenslip, there are steps you can take. You can drive a safer vehicle, stick to the road rules, make sure not to get any demerits or, like many city dwellers today – move to the country!

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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 9 years with greenslips.com.au, she’s an expert in the NSW CTP scheme. Read more about Corrina

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