Proof women really are safer drivers

by RAY MASSEY, Daily Mail

Last updated at 10:18 12 May 2004

It has long been an article of faith among women drivers that they are much safer at the wheel than men.

Now official figures back them up, with the revelation that male motorists commit nine times as many offences as the distaff side.

And the biggest disparity between the sexes comes with more serious transgressions.

In 2002, men were responsible for 97 per cent of dangerous- driving offences, 89 per cent of drink-driving cases and 83 per cent of speeding incidents.

Overall, 88 per cent of motoring offences that resulted in guilty verdicts in court involved men, the Home Office statistics revealed.

However, male drivers would retort that at least they can park the car properly and the statistics back them up.

The category in which women committed the highest number of offences was obstruction, waiting and parking - with 23 per cent of cases in 2002.

Research from insurance claims also shows that females are twice as likely as men to have a collision in a car park, 23 per cent more likely to hit a stationary car and 15 per cent more likely to reverse into another vehicle.

They also committed 16 per cent of offences involving the neglect or disregard of traffic and direction signs.

Out on the roads, although they are the safer drivers, women are putting their foot down more often, with their share of speeding offences rising from 13 per cent in 1998 to 17 per cent in 2002.

And their numbers are rapidly increasing.

While the percentage of men with a driving licence has remained at around 81 per cent over the last decade, the percentage of women has soared from 49 to 61 per cent.

Females are being caught driving under the influence of drink or drugs more often, with their share of such offences up from 9 per cent of the total in 1998 to 11 per cent in 2002.

But they are still much less likely to have a high- speed accident resulting in death. Some 238 women were killed in crashes in 2002 compared to 907 men.

They also committed just 6 per cent of death or bodily harm offences and only 3 per cent of dangerous-driving offences.

Steve Straddling, Professor of Transport Psychology at Napier University, Edinburgh, said: "A key factor is that women get less fun out of risktaking. People speed because they are under pressure, and women have different patterns.

"Men are more likely to speed to make a business appointment."

Professor Straddling's own research showed that 45 per cent of women believed motorway speed limits should never be broken, compared with 30 per cent of men.

Women were also better at resisting pressure to accelerate-in fast-moving traffic.

Mary Williams, of the road safety charity Brake, said: "The Government should place more emphasis on changing men's attitudes to driving and to improving their safety skills through adverts in men's magazines and in the workplace."

However, male drivers do have one statistic on their side which may help explain their high percentage of offences - they drive far more than women.

The figures showed men were behind the wheel an average of 6,500 miles a year compared to 2,900 for women.

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