Teens Rate Driving Skills But Who Are The Boys Kidding?

May 19, 2010

The gender gap--or is it the veracity gap--is alive and well in teenage drivers. In a study conducted by the Allstate Foundation, 1,063 teenage girls and boys were interviewed online to establish their attitudes toward their driving ability and that of their friends. The findings are very interesting in what they reveal about the respondents as well as their driving.

The foundation, which is a charitable arm of Allstate Insurance Company, conducted the study in May 2009 and the findings were reported in the Wall Street Journal. Of the girls interviewed, 48 percent said that they were likely to drive 10 mph over the speed limit while only 36 percent of the boys admitted to that level of speeding. As for the fairly innocuous practice of adjusting the volume or selecting music in the car, 84 percent of the girls raised their hands while only 69 percent of the boys did. Do you see a pattern here?

As a whole 82 percent of the group reported cell phone use and 49 percent indicated texting was a distraction while driving. If the results by gender are confounding, what the teens think of each other is even stranger. The majority of teens interviewed (65 percent) are confidant in their driving skill, but over three quarters of the same group reported feeling unsafe with another teen driving, while less than a quarter of the participants would agree with the statement “most teens are good drivers.”

Getting back to the differences in the male and female responses, they just don’t jive with the insurance industry findings that are based on claims data which in turn determine premium costs. As reported in the Wall Street Journal, at State Farm, which is the largest auto insurer in the country, rates for teenage boys are about 40 percent greater than for girls. The gap has dropped from 61 percent over the last 25 years.

While the disparity in answers by the teens may be a curiosity the seriousness of the issue is not in doubt. Car crashes are the number one cause of death for teenagers in the U.S. and boys are more likely to die in crashes than girls. However, the fatality rate has drastically declined since 1975 for both girls and boys.

As any parent who has waited up for a newly minted teen driver might expect, respondents said their parents’ presence in the car was a greater distraction than having a friend as a passenger. Those same parents probably have a higher level of confidence in this statistic compared to the other findings in the report.

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