Have you ever wondered which sex dominates behind the wheel? Race car driver Jimmie Johnson might be the king of driving on closed tracks, but car insurance rates prove that women rule on the open road.
At least they do in the eyes of car insurance companies.
A very distinct gender gap in car insurance rates has women paying significantly less for car insurance than men do. An individual's amount still depends on the same factors: credit history, age, traffic tickets, and so on. But if a man and a woman living in the same city with the same profile shop for car insurance, the woman would likely receive a lower auto insurance quote.
Why the disparity?
Statistics show that women drive more cautiously and less aggressively than men. They also receive fewer traffic tickets and use vehicle-safety systems like seat belts more often than men.
That's why car insurance companies charge men more than women. Since men are a higher risk, insurers figure they are more likely to pay a claim on a man's policy.
Risk and car insurance
Just how reckless are men behind the wheel?
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 70 percent of the people involved in fatal car crashes in 2009 were men.
Despite the fact that men crash, speed and receive tickets more often than women, Russ Rader of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) says that traffic infractions involving women are on the rise. "It's not like women don't ever get into accidents or take chances behind the wheel," he says.
In fact, the number of fatal accidents involving female drivers has risen by about 10 percent in the past 35 years. "While the number of male drivers involved in fatal crashes has dropped by 32 percent," says Rader.
"Women are getting into more crashes than they used to, but research shows that's only because they're driving more miles. Statistically, men are still more likely to get into crashes, and drive aggressively like speeding and running red lights. They're also more likely to drink and drive," he says.
Breaking down the numbers
Based on numbers crunched by the IIHS, it's not surprising that men pay more.
The IIHS says:
- There are more men on the road than women. About 93 percent of all men age 16 and over drive versus 85 percent of all women age 16 and older.
- About 2.5 times more men are behind the wheel of fatal crashes than women.
- Men crash 12 percent more on weekends than women.
- Men are behind the wheel in 24 percent more fatal nighttime crashes than women.
- Men are involved in rear-end accidents 30 percent more often than women.
- Men who do not have a valid license are involved in fatal crashes 50 percent more often than women.
- Women wear seatbelts 27 percent more often than men.
- DUIs issued to men outnumber those issued to women by more than 2 to 1.
- 25 percent of men involved in a fatal crash had been previously issued a speeding ticket, while only 17 percent of women in fatal crashes were stopped for speeding.
- Men are two times more likely to drive with a suspended license than women.
According to a study by San Francisco-based Quality Planning Corp., a company that validates policyholder information for auto insurers, male drivers are also cited for reckless driving a lot -- 3.4 times more than women.
But despite all the numbers, is it fair to lump all men into one category? It doesn't matter -- car insurance companies still set rates based on the averages.
What's a guy to do?
If men want to get the same car insurance rates as women, they'll have to change their driving.
Scott Marshall, a driving instructor and director of training at Young Drivers of Canada, says men should stop tailgating or speeding. These "are some of the easiest things to change, and ways to be safer on the road."
When you are behind the wheel, Marshall says guys should follow a woman's lead and make sure to always wear a seat belt.
"Not only will that reduce the chance of a fatality, in many states, it's a law which, if broken, could result in a ticket." Tickets blemish your driving record and can keep you from being eligible for 'preferred' or good-driver discounts.
There is one bright spot for men. As we age, the gender rate gap slowly starts to shrink. IIHS statistics show that at ages 55 to 64, men and women are involved in the same number of fatal crashes. In fact, Rader says after age 65, women are behind the wheel of a fatal auto incident about 20 percent more than men.