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How Gender Matters on American Roads

Saturday, March 09, 2013 - 08:29 AM

More women drive than men, but men do more driving. Confusing? A recent study parsed almost 50 years worth of data from the Federal Highway Administration for gender trends in America's roadway habits.

For one, 2005 was a turning point. That's when U.S. female drivers outnumbered male drivers for the first time. But since men log 5,000 miles more per year than women on average, males still account for 60 percent of drivers who are actually on the road at a given time.

The trend of more women getting driver's licenses started decades ago, and the FHA data compiled by Michael Sivak of the University of Michigan Transportation Institute shows the gender ratio of drivers has hovered close to an even split since the late 1990s. In 1963, only 40 percent of drivers were females, and they only did 24 percent of the driving.

Past research has shown marked differences in driving behavior between men and women. Women statistically get in more fender benders, but men disobey traffic laws more often, and get into many more fatal car accidents. It's also no secret that those tendencies also skew toward younger male drivers, and a past study from the same Michigan researcher shows young people are now getting driver's licenses at a slower rate. Still, men and women alike are driving significantly more now than 30, 40 and 50 years ago.

But, more women on the road has changed driving trends as a whole. The study points out that combined with crash patterns that vary by gender, car choices also vary. Women are also much more likely to drive compact, fuel-efficient cars, with better safety ratings.

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