NMA Email Newsletter: Issue #70

A New Contender For The “Worst Drivers” Title?

It’s long been a component of American folklore that young girls are much safer drivers than young boys—the accident statistics say so. Like a lot of folklore, the conclusions drawn from personal experience and the pronouncements of “experts” are wrong.

A recent report put forth by the insurance industry, amid a lot of hand-wringing and shock and dismay, discovered that young female drivers were challenging young male drivers for the title of “Worst Drivers.” This confirms personal observations where the exception to the rule is to see a young lady who DOESN’T have a cell phone growing out of the side of her head. Of course anyone who has had a roadside meeting with a female teenage driver involving a rumpled trunk lid or center punched driver’s door would confirm this unfortunate trend.

As is often the case, the cause and the effect are being misinterpreted. First, young females were never significantly better or safer drivers than young males. The reason they were proportionally involved in fewer traffic accidents is that they drove much less than young male drivers. The National Organization of Woman (NOW) expended a great deal of effort researching this subject (starting a few decades ago) and found that female drivers in general were involved in few accidents because they drove fewer miles than males. They made this information available to anyone who was willing to listen, including the insurance industry.

A follow on result of this research was the promotion of insurance rating being based on “miles traveled” instead of gender. (The same issue is at play when considering random or occasional traffic tickets; people who drive more are more likely to get tickets.)

The real reason young female drivers are involved in an increasing proportion of traffic accidents is that they are driving more, it is not because they are emulating supposedly hormone crazed young males who careen through school zones at triple digit speeds.

Then again, there is the cell phone thing…

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