Women have more accidents than men, but men are involved
in more fatal accidents and accidents that cause serious
injuries. According to Jacques Bergeron, Director of the
Driving Simulation Laboratory and Professor in the Psychology
Department at Université de Montréal, the
phenomenon can be explained by psychology. "When you
ask a male driver to assess his skills relative to a group
of 30 people of the same age and sex, you find little variation
between the self-evaluations," he says. Each one tends
to evaluate himself as a better driver than his neighbour.
Under the same circumstances, the women's assessments are
more varied. They see themselves as generally better drivers,
but their concept of a "good driver" leans more
toward caution than skill."
The result? Men take more risks behind the wheel. "In
most men's minds, speed is not a problem since men see themselves
as good drivers who can drive fast and avoid accidents.
However, we know that high speed is often a significant
factor in collisions: reaction times are shorter, while
braking distance and the force of the impact are increased."
But speed has a special appeal that is very difficult to
resist... especially for young people. Speed is the cause
of 25% of deaths and 19% of serious injuries, according
to the Société de l'assurance automobile du
Québec. It is the second most frequent cause of accidents
after drinking and driving, which is linked to nearly 40%
of highway fatalities, or more than 300 deaths annually.
Of the 20,500 offenders aged 40 years and over who were
charged with second alcohol-related offences 1990 and 1994,
there were ten times more men than women. Among young people
aged 18 to 35 years, the major high-risk population for
speeding, there are many more men than women. "Even
though they may also erupt in road rage, women drivers tend
to be more cautious and make less dangerous manuvres,"
notes Mr. Bergeron.
For the past 15 years, Prof. Bergeron has been doing research
on driving behaviour. Using a converted Honda Civic in the
Driving Simulation Laboratory, he and his master's and doctoral
level students have studied drunk driving, aggressiveness,
alertness, etc. Through the many experiments he has performed
over the years, he has found many distinctions between men's
and women's driving habits.
Telephone: (514) 343-5811
Funding: Société d'assurance-automobile du
Québec, Ministère des transports, Fonds FCAR