Closing the Gender Gap Among Drivers

‘Who’s in the Driving Seat?’, a new study of gender differences from the IAM (Institute of Advanced Motorists), has found that women and men aren’t so different when it comes to driving behaviours and attitudes. Most of the 520 men and 480 women surveyed enjoy driving, and rate themselves to be confident, considerate and safe behind the wheel, but almost twice as many men as women claim to be very confident.

Neil Greig, IAM Director of Policy and Research said: “Despite the many myths attributed to drivers of either sex, it’s clear from our survey that both have a similar approach to driving. Men and women are equally likely to admit to speeding, poor parking behavior or losing their temper. However, almost a quarter of women say that being a passenger with their partner in the driving seat leads to their feeling less relaxed.”

Men are the more likely to take responsibility for car maintenance and legal documentation of both cars in two-car households, with over half of women claiming their partner carries out routine maintenance. In households where both partners drive, the man is much more likely to drive when on a day out, depriving his partner of the opportunity to gain and maintain driving experience and confidence. However this pattern is reversed when it comes to a night out, when the man is usually happy for the woman to drive. Both men and women feel that their confidence could be boosted by taking an advanced driving course, with nearly half of women, and more than a third of men believing it would improve their driving skills.

Mr Greig added: “The fact that so many women believe in the strength of driver training is encouraging. Single women are significantly more likely than single men to have a car, and while women may drive less while in a relationship, if – as is quite likely – they eventually become the primary driver, advanced driver training would help to increase their skills and confidence on the roads.”

The IAM offers the following advice to women for safer, more confident driving:

• Be assertive – take the wheel more often to build up driving experience and confidence. Women are more nervous than men when driving in bad weather, in fast-moving traffic, close to lorries and on motorways, but valuable experience can be gained by opting to drive as much as possible, and not always deferring to a partner on longer journeys
• Be confident – women are considerably less likely to have an accident than men, and are at less risk of violent assault after leaving the car, so don’t be afraid to drive purely because of perceived risk
• Be skilful – by being more aware of the threats presented by other vehicles, and knowing how to put yourself in a better position to avoid or deal with them, advanced driver training will make you a more confident and safer driver

Half of the men and women surveyed say they occasionally speed or lose their temper with other drivers, but next to none are willing to admit using a hand-held mobile phone while driving, or to driving after drinking. When it comes to parking around a quarter of both sexes say they either regularly or occasionally park where they shouldn’t.

“The findings are positive, and dispel a lot of previously held misconceptions, particularly about women drivers. While women are still more nervous in certain environments we encourage them to take the steering wheel more often, and to get as much practice as possible. Women are significantly more comfortable using their car at night, than walking or using public transport, and for this reason they should do everything they can to be as confident in their cars as possible,” Mr Greig concluded.


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