x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Women drivers are safer than men, new figures say

Men are 63 per cent more likely to be involved in a traffic accident than women, according to statistics released by the Abu Dhabi traffic police.

Men are 63 per cent more likely to be involved in a traffic accident than women, according to statistics released by the Abu Dhabi traffic police.
Men are 63 per cent more likely to be involved in a traffic accident than women, according to statistics released by the Abu Dhabi traffic police.

ABU DHABI // Men are 63 per cent more likely to be involved in a car accident than women, and 43 per cent more likely to break the speed limit.

The main causes of accidents involving male drivers are negligence, tailgating and making sudden turns. Among women, the top three causes are sudden turns, running red lights and paying insufficient attention.

The differences are revealed in statistics released by Abu Dhabi traffic police, which show that last year 19 out of every 10,000 women were involved in a car accident compared with 31 in 10,000 men.

Although women are less likely to break the speed limit, they do so by the same amount as men; 66 per cent of the 1.9 million fines imposed last year were on drivers, both male and female, who exceeded the limit by between 20kph and 30kph.

Men dominate Abu Dhabi's roads: there are 776,771 registered male drivers and 129,808 female drivers. As a result, 90 per cent of accidents involve men.

Dr Dolly Habbal, a clinical psychologist at the Gulf Diagnostic Centre in Abu Dhabi, said differences in driving behaviour were not due only to different levels of driving competence.

"They derive from more fundamental differences related to neurochemical structures, hormonal processes and global socialisation practices," she said.

Ways of expressing aggression vary between the sexes, Dr Habbal said. In men, aggression can take the form of rebellion - they break society's rules more often than women do. "Men violate traffic regulations by speeding and drink-driving. They also take more risks, and that too has a hormonal and neurochemical basis," she said.

Women are more likely than men to abide by the rules and are more alert to the consequences of bad driving, Dr Habbal said. "It also appears that men have more confidence in their driving skills than women do."

Confidence is a key factor in good driving, but overconfidence can be a drawback. Male aggression often translates into practices such as tailgating, while women's lack of confidence, coupled with distraction, can lead to errors such as running a red light, experts said.

Many young Emirati men view tailgating as acceptable driving behaviour, according to a study on driving behaviour conducted in January by the Emirates Foundation and United Arab Emirates University.

Observing the speed limit, maintaining a safe distance from the vehicle in front, wearing seat-belts and stopping to make mobile phone calls were often considered "unmanly or cowardly", or practised only by unskilled drivers.

Dr Taha Amir, a UAE University psychology professor who helped to conduct the study, said the difference in driving behaviour between the sexes was mostly genetic.

"Females play a far greater role in reproduction and rearing of offspring than males, so they are genetically programmed to be more careful and not to take unnecessary risks," Dr Amir said. "This is not a conscious choice; it takes place without conscious awareness."

Factors such as multitasking put women at equal risk of being involved in an accident, Dr Amir said. "We always hear how women are better at multitasking, but the truth is when people multitask, their performance is significantly reduced. This is a fact regardless of gender."

Other experts said factors such as the frequency and location of driving must also be taken into consideration when analysing figures.

"For example, women drive mostly on urban arterial roads, inside the city, while men tend to drive longer distances on highways with high speed limits," Dr Yasser Hawas, professor of transportation and traffic engineering at UAE University, said.

"This could be also a reason why you may see more severity to the injuries resulting from accidents involving male drivers."

mismail@thenational.ae