By Christelle Fourie, Managing Director of MUA Insurance Acceptances
The findings of the recent online MUA Driver Behaviour survey revealed some interesting findings about the differences between male and female motorists and their perceptions about their driving capability, driving under the influence of alcohol and speed limits.
The survey respondents comprised of 93 males and 101 females, providing an evenly distributed sample group and opened up good debate.
So, who is better at driving?
The majority of respondents believe they are better drivers compared to their partners with a total of 70% admitting they think they are more skilled behind the wheel than their significant other. Male respondents were significantly more confident with 81% of respondents stating they were better drivers compared to only 59% of women.
The argument that female drivers are more cautious than males was also backed up by the survey, which indicated that 89% of women said they drive more carefully with a passenger in the car compared to 79% of men.
These results are interesting in light of numerous studies that tend to reveal women are involved in fewer motor vehicle accidents than men. A recent study by the University of New South Wales Transport and Road Safety research unit in Australia found that male drivers are four times more likely to be involved in fatal crashes compared to women.
These studies show why in many cases, women often tend to obtain cheaper motor insurance premiums as they present a lower risk to insure. In South Africa gender is still used as a determining factor when it comes to the cost of motor insurance premiums so it will be interesting to see how the European insurance industry faces the challenge of adapting premiums as of 21 December 2012 to have no gender-based pricing.
Drinking and driving
It was promising to note that a total of 67% of respondents stated that they do not drive under the influence of alcohol. Female drivers once again came out tops with only 24% admitting they drive under the influence, compared with 41% of males who confessed to driving after a few drinks.
Despite these alarmingly high statistics, a positive to note is that when asked whether they insist on driving if their partner is under the influence of alcohol and they are not, 93% of respondents stated they will insist on driving.
The fact remains that drunk driving is a serious problem in South Africa. According to the Medical Research Council (MRC) 53% of road users who die on South African roads had an alcohol level which was over the legal limit.
It is crucial that people understand the implications of drinking and driving. While it still remains a too commonly accepted practice, driving under the influence is illegal and insurance companies have the right to refuse paying out any claim if the driver is found guilty of drunk driving. The Road Accident Fund can also refuse to pay out claims resulting from a drunk driving accident.
Furthermore, insurance companies may also decide that a driver who has been found guilty of drunk driving is too high a risk for them to carry and refuse to continue their motor insurance cover. Should an insurance company be lenient with a drunk driver and decide to pay out the claim, the drivers’ monthly insurance premium will most likely increase steeply. However, if the drunk driver’s license is suspended, they will not be able to obtain any car insurance.
Will reducing the speed limit result in fewer accidents?
One area which demonstrated a very similar response across gender was whether they think a reduction in speed limits could contribute to a decrease in motor vehicle accidents. 78% of males and 76% of females were adamant that lowering the speed limit was not a sound solution.
While there have been many studies conducted around the effects of lowering of speed limits to reduce accidents, there is no unanimous stance. A study conducted by the Department of Transport in Britain found that reducing the speed limit did not necessarily reduce the number of accidents with the analysis finding that the average number of people killed or seriously injured each year rose from 18.7 to 19.9 since the introduction of slower 20mph traffic zones in 2007.
Some argue that speed kills and a lower speed limit may result in less serious accidents, while the other argument is that lower speed limits frustrate drivers, resulting in greater non-compliance and overtaking.
While this poll provides some interesting insight into the minds of South African drivers, practising safe driving behaviour and obeying the rules of the road are the most effective ways for motorists to avoid being involved in an accident.