Young Men and Women Crash Their Cars Differently

Photo: Jed Egan

It sounds like the setup to a bad stand-up comedy routine, but a recent study in the Journal of Safety Research suggests young men and women get in different sorts of car accidents, at least on average. The authors, Niranga Amarasingha and Sunanda Dissanayake of Kansas State University, examined records from the Kansas Accident Reporting System that covered the 138,3888 crashes occurring between 2007 and 2011, in which the drivers were between 15 and 24 years old, involving injury or at least moderate property damage.

Here’s what they found, as summed up in the study’s abstract:

Variables such as driving with valid licenses, driving on weekends, avoidance or slow maneuvers at time of crash, non-collision and overturn crashes, and collision with a pedestrian were significant variables in female driver injury severity model but not in young male driver severity model. Travel on graded roadways, concrete surfaces, and wet road surfaces, collision with another vehicle, and rear-end collisions were variables that were significant in male-driver severity model but not in female-driver severity model.

When you throw in the fact that males were much more likely to be inebriated at the time of the crashes they were involved in and somewhat more likely to be involved in crashes that took place at night, the overall picture supports the pretty well-established notion that young men engage in certain sorts of riskier behavior more often than young women do. (The researchers make no claims about the sources of the driving differences they uncovered, and obviously a lot of behavioral stuff is socialized from a young age.)

The authors write that since there do appear to be solid, statistically significant, gender-based differences in traffic incidents, professionals “who are developing countermeasures to increase … traffic safety may need to pay attention” to those differences. It’s unclear exactly how you’d do that, though, other than acknowledging the aforementioned young-dude-ish tendency to take more dumb risks.

But when you’re talking about events that are, on the whole, rather rare, and between-gender differences are mostly in the range of five or ten accidents per thousand drivers, it’s not like you’re going to divide up driver’s ed into male and female classes. Though, again — maybe good fodder for bad stand-up.