If only women drove

August 01, 2023 by

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Women make up 48% of all motorists in the UK*, and carwow research shows that despite being equally interested in cars and car buying, almost six-in-10 female drivers feel the car buying and selling process is still geared towards men.

So what’s going on? 62% of women we asked said that societal stereotypes about female drivers make the process less accessible. Specifically that:

  • Women ‘can’t drive’.
  • Women ‘can’t park’.
  • Women ‘don’t understand cars’.

These harmful stereotypes have no place on the road. We all know they’re just plain wrong, and we’ve turned to national data to prove just that.

carwow’s analysis and dive into the data asks what our roads could look like if men hung up their car keys…

Road safety is one of the UK’s great success stories. When last measured against Europe in 2018, we recorded 28 fatalities per million inhabitants – the lowest of all EU countries, which had an average of 49 fatalities per million.

But while UK roads may be safer than almost anyone else’s, there’s an uncomfortable truth hiding behind that excellent record: men are behind the vast, vast majority of all motoring offences and collisions.

That, logically, means women are significantly safer, more law abiding drivers. But to say this is not enough; to properly understand just how much riskier a man is on the road requires a deep dive into a wide range of statistics, together with the question: what would our roads be like if only women drove?

Overall motoring offences

If only women drove: 62.4% reduction in overall motoring offences

Drawing on Ministry of Justice figures, 658,711* people were convicted of motoring offences in 2022. Of those, 539,142 were male and just 119,569 female.

If only women drove, the overall number of motoring offences for which people are convicted would in theory reduce by 81.8%. Over eight in 10 offences would theoretically not occur – although this assumes women do not make up the miles caused by the absence of men on the road.

*DVLA

To adjust for this we assume that if only women drove, they would have to double their annual mileage to make up for the driving not done by men. The 2021 National Travel Survey, meanwhile, indicates that men cover 7% more miles than women.

We’ve therefore multiplied the number of convictions women are subject to by 207%, and compared this to the total number of convictions.

In this instance, 207% of the 119,569 driving offences women were convicted of in 2022 is 247,508, which represents a 62.4% decrease on the 658,711 motoring convictions recorded last year.

*Data excludes companies, public bodies etc convicted of motoring offences, and those where a convict’s sex was unknown

Drink, drug, and dangerous driving

  • If only women drove: 59% reduction in drink-driving
  • If only women drove: 80.9% reduction in drug-driving
  • If only women drove: 91.2% reduction in dangerous driving
  • If only women drove: 79.9% reduction in death by dangerous and careless driving

It’s not just enough to look at top-level data, though, as within those 2022 MoJ numbers are included all manner of motor-vehicle offences, including theft of motor vehicles (men: 2,185, women: 140), and using a vehicle with defective parts (men: 10,824 convictions, women: 1,349).

We know, for example, that drink-driving is one of the most dangerous things motorists can do, and it’s a crime that men are far more likely to commit than women: out of the 35,388 convictions for drink-driving offences last year, 28,399 went to men, and 6,989 to women, leaving men responsible for 80.2% of offences. Increasing the number of convictions by women by 207% to account for no men driving, that would leave women committing 14,467 drink-driving offences, which represents a 59% reduction on current levels.

Women are also far less likely than men to be convicted for drug-driving offences (22,793 convictions, of which 20,684 were men vs just 2,109 women); unadjusted, if only women drove there would be a 90.7% drop in drug-driving convictions, but even after accounting for the 207% more miles women would need to do to make up for the absence of male drivers, an 80.9% drop drug-driving is indicated.

The picture is similar for dangerous driving (total convictions: 5,172, of which 4,952 were men, and just 220 women). Adjusted, that sees 455 women likely to be convicted of this offence, which represents a 91.2% drop.

Last year just 39 women were convicted of causing death by dangerous or careless driving, compared to 247 men. Adjusting female convictions based on a 207% uplift in mileage, if only women drove there would be a projected 79.9% drop in incidents of motorists causing death by dangerous or careless driving.

Speeding and mobile phone offences

  • If only women drove: 51% reduction in speeding
  • If only women drove: 71.4% reduction in mobile phone offences

Speeding makes up the biggest numbers in the MoJ’s dataset, with 229,150 convictions in total for men and women last year (NB these figures refer only to court appearances, not speeding Fixed Penalty Notice ‘tickets’ dealt with by post).

Of those people, 174,884 were men and 54,266 women, leaving men responsible for 76.3% of speeding offences. Adjusted by 207%, if only women drove there would be a 51% drop in speeding.

As for using a handheld mobile phone behind the wheel, a total of 4,954 people were convicted by a court of this offence in 2022, of which 4,269 were men, and 685 women. Even after adjusting female offences by 207%, this leads to a drop of 71.4% for mobile-phone convictions.

Car-occupant fatalities

  • If only women drove: 67.9% reduction in car-occupant death

Men are not only more likely to commit motoring offences; they are also more likely to suffer tragedy behind the wheel.

For this we need to look at the Department for Transport’s provisional 2022 data on road casualties.

This shows that in 2022, 251 women and 530 men lost their lives when travelling in a car.

We’ve left these figures unadjusted.

Car insurance costs

Insurance firms are experts at calculating risk and pricing this into the cost of premiums, so it should come as little surprise given the above data that men pay more for their car insurance than women.

Exclusive data shared with carwow by Go.Compare shows this to be the case: the average price for a car insurance policy bought via the comparison site during the first quarter of 2023 was £678 for men and £599 for women, a 13.23% difference.

Men were also more likely to declare one or more penalty points on their licence when applying for car insurance with Go.Compare, with 5.9% of women, and 8.3% of men telling the comparison site of an endorsement.

This might partly explain why there is a £79 difference between men and women in the average cost of a car insurance policy, as since 2012 providers haven’t been able to discriminate between sex when calculating premiums – although they are allowed to factor in driving history, vehicle choice, occupation, and other factors.

Putting this in context: work matters

While we’ve adjusted these figures to reflect the 2021 National Travel Survey’s findings that men cover 7% more miles than women, it’s worth noting that occupations involving driving are heavily populated by men. Data from the Department for Transport shows that in 2021, just 2% of the 243,000 HGV drivers in Great Britain were female, for instance.

Similar DfT data from 2022 shows 97% of the UK’s 260,700 taxi and Private Hire Vehicle drivers are male, while just 12% of bus drivers are female.

If only women drove, these professions would therefore require a significant influx of female motorists.

Commenting on the analysis, carwow’s consumer editor, Hugo Griffiths, said:

“I have never seen such stark differences between demographics as those evident in the impact a person’s sex has on their road-safety risks.

“There are caveats to the data, sure, not least because if only women drove our haulage industry, as well as our taxi and bus services, would require significant changes.

“Nonetheless, with disparities between men and women such as these, it’s worth reflecting on why the numbers are as they are, and if anything can be done to address the greater risks men present behind the wheel.

“Much of this, I suspect, will be attitudinal and age-related. As an example, roughly 10% of all men convicted of driving offences are aged between 21-24, and this is possibly due to a lack of experience, combined with the need some young men may feel to prove themselves by trying to impress others – a fact that is in part behind the Government’s proposal to introduce Graduated Driving Licences for young drivers.

“But however you slice the data, the theme that continues to emerge is that women are far, far safer behind the wheel than men. It must be the responsibility of men to ask themselves what they can do to improve their performance in this area.”