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Are there any differences in either sex which are provably beneficial and/or detrimental to their driving abilities?

Also, is it possible that stereotypical gender roles make any difference in driving ability?

For example: Men stereotypically tend to take women on dates where the man drives the car and pays for the meal. A greater number of dates could make them accustomed to driving while distracted (if they're interested in the girl, they're probably distracted).

For balance: Women have less testosterone and are stereotypically less aggressive than men, which may prevent them from succumbing to "road rage".

Are there any studies showing that either gender is more prone to accidents?

  • @zzzzBov -- Edited a little to attempt to cut down on ensuing flame wars. – Russell Steen Mar 31 '11 at 5:04
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    Date-driving-experience seems a bit far fetched. I'm guessing any real differences are attributable to men stereotypically being the drivers overall which would lead to significantly more driving practice, completely unrelated to whether or not they were on a date at the time. Other marginal factors might include that men generally have higher visuo-spatial abilities (beneficial), and are generally more prone to take risks (detrimental). I don't know how that trade-off balances out, but the effects should be small anyhow. Obligatory disclaimer about bell curves, big overlaps etc etc... – David Hedlund Mar 31 '11 at 8:10
  • @Russell Steen, I haven't seen any flame wars on skeptics, but I have seen many catchy titles. While I understand the reasoning behind changing the title, I preferred mine better :-p – zzzzBov Mar 31 '11 at 15:01
  • @zzzzBov - Feel free to roll it back. And you don't see the flame wars because the mods clean up ;) – Russell Steen Mar 31 '11 at 15:02
  • When I was young, which is longer ago than I care to admit, my observation was that bad male drivers tended to be overconfident and overaggressive, while bad female drivers tended to be inexperienced and timid, and good drivers of either sex tended to be similar. Come the late 1960s, I stopped noticing that effect. – David Thornley Mar 31 '11 at 23:45
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Sex differences in driving and insurance risk (by The Social Issues Research Centre, 2004)

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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

[...]

Conclusion

Men and women are different. In terms of driving behaviour, the differences can be seen clearly in the greater propensity of males to take risks, exhibit aggression and seek thrilling sensations. The results of these differences are highlighted very clearly across the globe in higher accident statistics, more expensive and frequent insurance claims and higher rates of convictions for offences such as dangerous and drink-driving.

These differences may be shaped by socialisation, but they are rooted in more fundamental factors. Evolutionary psychology provides a strong basis for sourcing many of these back to the little-changed cognitive structures required by our hunter-gather ancestors.

the authors believe there is overwhelming evidence that propensities towards certain types of behaviour, including less-safe driving, are ‘hard wired’ in men.


The paper cites a lot of studies. They are referenced on the last six pages. Way too many to include them here.

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    +1 for the insurance risk answer. However, "skill" is not defined in the question, so do we also need to consider other interpretations of skill, such as success in competions (Formula 1, Indy Car etc)? Very few women comppete at the highest level in these sports, does that imply a lower level of skill, or just a lower level of interest? – name removed Mar 31 '11 at 10:31
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    woman are more likely to have minor crashes then men while men are more likly to cause the big bills according to why men pay more in the uk. car-accidents.com/pages/car-crash-men-woman.html – Andy Apr 1 '11 at 7:49
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    Depending on how we define skill, your answer could actually be evidence for men being better drivers. You see, the more do you risky (ie. difficult) maneuvers, the better you get at them. So while the total number of accidents may be higher for men, their success rate on risky maneuvers may be higher. Also, we could have some survival of the fittest going on. – Casebash Apr 1 '11 at 9:36
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    @Andy That matches up with what I've witnessed in my own life. My female friends have far more accidents and tickets than my male friends, but they're all relatively minor things (15mph over, running red lights, fender benders). However, when the males DO crash or get a ticket, it's a HUGE one (doing double the speed limit, crashes that rip the car in half, etc). – Brian Knoblauch Apr 1 '11 at 12:39
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    I'm rather unimpressed at the limited extent this paper deals with the major confounding variable of men being more likely to do (professional and personal) long-distance and rural driving, accounting, to some extent, for a difference in the types of accidents and fatality rates. – Oddthinking Jun 11 '11 at 7:17
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A key effect is vision. Women have better night vision (more rods) but males have better depth perception (more cones). Both are relevant to driving, but in different circumstances.

However, older females are more likely to recognize the limits of their vision.

  • I think females in general (not just older) are more likely to recognize the limits. Myself and my male friends don't think twice about driving at night, but all the female friends I can think of are afraid of driving at night because they don't feel that they can see well enough. They always make one of the males drive at night. If the above statement involving vision is correct, that could be the worst possible situation! – Brian Knoblauch Apr 1 '11 at 12:41

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