Research Shows Men Just THINK They Drive Better Than Women

men-vs-women-drivers.jpgA YouTube  search for “female driver” yields more than 3,000 results: You can watch women drivers shearing off gas pumps, veering into swimming pools and destroying every car in the vicinity while attempting to parallel park. Another woman manages to roll her car on to its roof pulling into a driveway.

A similar search, this time for “male driver,” pulls up just 348 videos – about one-tenth as many. Why are there so few videos about bad male drivers – and so many featuring women? Do women actually produce more camera-worthy driving disasters? Are women worse drivers than men?

According to a new Harris-Decima poll, Canadians think the answer is yes. When asked who was better at driving, 36 per cent of those polled said men were. A lower number (29 per cent) thought women were the best drivers.

The poll also suggests that age-old prejudices live on, largely due to the male tendency to consider himself better equipped for the road: Some 48 per cent of the men polled said they were superior drivers – but only 25 per cent of the women respondents said they were better.
But the question remains: Is one sex really better behind the wheel than the other?

Driving experts say there are differences, but that doesn’t mean men (or women) are superior. “There is still a perception that men are better drivers, even though there’s no basis for it,” says Kelly Williams, an automotive consultant and racing driver who has spent her career competing against men. “Driving is a skill-based activity. The car doesn’t know whether the foot on the gas pedal belongs to a man or a woman.”

Although she dismissed the notion that either sex is better at driving, Ms. Williams says she has noticed some general differences between men and women in her role as a high-performance driving instructor. “Women are less willing to push it,” she says. “But they take instruction better. They’re willing to admit when they don’t know something.”

Researchers have found differences between men and women’s driving abilities. Tom Vanderbilt, the author of a book called Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us), cites a study at Germany’s Ruhr University-Bochum, where male and female drivers of varying experience levels were asked to park an Audi A6 in various ways (including backing into a spot and parallel parking) in a closed-off parking garage.

“They found that women took longer to park the car than men,” Mr. Vanderbilt says. “This might be seen as a result of the general tendency for men to take more risks in driving than women (e.g., men drive faster, closer to other vehicles, more often without seat belts, more often under the influence of alcohol), but there was another interesting result: Even though men parked more quickly, they also parked more accurately, as measured by distance to neighbouring cars.”

Vanderbilt says the studies can’t be used to conclude that men are better drivers, only that they have different strengths and weaknesses than women. “Male drivers have, in some cases, been shown to be more technically proficient,” he says. “For example, for young drivers taking the in-car portion of the driving test in the U.K., young males do statistically better than young female drivers. However, who goes on to be statistically more involved in serious crashes? Those same ‘better’ young male drivers.”

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By Peter Cheney
The Globe & Mail

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