Those condescending jokes about female drivers seem to have vanished with the Bob Hope generation of comedians. Nowadays women appear to have a positive image of themselves as safer drivers than men, according to a recent poll. In a survey done for insurer MetLife, 51% of women said their gender drives more safely.
The evidence is on their side: Men are 3.4 times more likely than women to get a ticket for reckless driving and 3.1 times as likely to be cited for drunk driving, according to a study by Quality Planning, a research firm that works for insurance companies. "Women are on average less aggressive and more law-abiding drivers -- attributes that lead to fewer accidents," the study says.
Not that guys have completely caught on. Of the men surveyed by MetLife, only 39% claimed male drivers were safer -- but 35% of men didn't know which gender to pick. The findings did back men up on one point: automotive knowledge. The poll showed that more men are familiar with current safety equipment such as electronic stability control, which helps prevent rollover accidents.
Lower Insurance Rates for Women
Why auto safety matters to MoneyWatch: Men are paying for their unsafe behavior. Insurance company underwriters focus on what classes of drivers have the lowest dollar amounts of claims -- and for now, that includes women. As a result, auto insurance rates are lower for women in most states.
A study by the web site Insweb showed that overall, women pay about 9% less for auto insurance than men. Among individual states, women get the greatest advantage in Wyoming (where they pay 20% less) and in South Dakota and Washington, D.C., where their insurance costs are 16% lower.
Higher Death Rates for Men
Men fare particularly badly when the statistics get deadly serious.
More than 11,900 male drivers died in U.S. traffic accidents in 2009, compared with just under 4,900 women drivers, according to a study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Based on miles traveled, men died at a rate of 2.5 deaths per 100 million miles traveled, vs. 1.7 deaths for women.
Those rates skyrocket for teenage drivers to 9.2 deaths per 100 million miles for males 16 to 19 years old and 5.3 deaths for female of the same age.
Where Gender Doesn't Matter
The advantage women have had by avoiding aggressive driving may be eroding among teenagers -- largely because of distractions while driving.
Increasing numbers of teenage female drivers had been involved in accidents or had near misses because of distracted driving with cell phones, music players and other causes, according to a survey this year co-sponsored by Liberty Mutual.
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