Battle of the sexes

New research sheds light on what exactly is going through a woman’s mind while she’s behind the wheel

January 01, 1970

Distribution of stress
Who are the better drivers, men or women? It’s a contentious issue that will probably continue to be debated by our great-great-grandchildren while they drive their hover scooters to work.
One thing we do know is that there are some very real differences in how men and women mentally approach driving.
For example, new research reveals that female drivers tend to worry more than males.
A UK survey published in November found that 69% of female drivers felt stressed before even getting into the car, as opposed to only 64% of men.
As much as 39% of women noted that arguing with someone before driving was probably going to alter their mood for the worse once they got on the road, compared with only 28% of men.
Additional stress factors come into play once the car leaves the driveway. The biggest for both women (75%) and men (63%) is the bad driving of other motorists.
Also topping the list is rushing to avoid being late, which was cited as a significant stressor by 47% of women and 34% of men.

Crash-test dummies
Another study showed that what women should really be stressed about is vehicle safety.
Research released late last year reported that women are more likely to sustain injuries in an auto accident than men because the safety features in many vehicles were designed primarily for a man’s body type.
Researchers from the University of Virginia combed through years of accident data and found that in similar mishaps, female drivers are 47% more likely to sustain serious injury than males.
While previous studies have analyzed the differences in men’s and women’s driving styles, the researchers said that another explanation could be the design of safety features.
For example, the positioning of head restraints often fails to take into account that women’s necks are different from men’s in size and strength. And due to their shorter stature, women also face a higher risk of injury to the lower extremities.
Safety engineers would later confess that a lifetime spent working in labs had left them with only a fuzzy understanding of the female form.

Patronizing the patrons
Despite all this stress associated with driving, women still buy 60% of all new cars and 53% of all used cars and spend $300 billion annually getting their cars repaired.
Accordingly, automakers spend millions of dollars each year in advertising and marketing targeted specifically to women. So then why do most women say they hate the car-buying experience?
A recent survey conducted by CarMax just might have the answers. The results showed that when asked about their last car-buying experience, more than a quarter of women felt they were not getting an effortless and quick transaction. A fair trade-in value, trustworthy salespeople and reasonable pricing also were cited as missing factors in the sales process.
Previous research supports the notion of a treatment gap. A study of 200 Chicago car dealerships in the 1990s found that women were consistently quoted higher prices than men. And in 2005, when sent a male and female editor out to Los Angeles-area car dealerships to compare shopping experiences, they found that two-thirds of the time, the female editor received poorer treatment than the male.
So now that you’ve had a glimpse inside the thoughts and experiences that the women in your life deal with on the road each day, you might reconsider those jokes about their parking. Besides, there’s a reason why your insurance is more expensive. R&B

David Matthews

David Matthews has been chronicling the unexpectedly humorous side of transportation news for his Roads Report column since 2000. The stories are all true.

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