“Accident and penalty point data point to women as safer drivers – but this isn’t reflected in driving test pass rates”
The latest published figures from 20191 show that 25% more men than women took and passed their driving test (55,876 vs 44,614 respectively).
Experts at online insurance broker Missquote.ie say that while statistics indicate that women drivers have a lower incidence rate than men when it comes to major accidents or fatalities on Irish roads2, driving test statistics from the CSO3 do not seem to tally with this higher safety record, given that so many more men than women pass their driving test every year. The online brokers say they are flagging these anomalies because they believe that unconscious bias and stereotyping might be holding female drivers back.
Deirdre McCarthy of MissQuote.ie commented, “The most recent driving test statistics show that in 20194 98,493 men took the test and 55,876 passed - with an overall pass rate of 57%. In contrast, 87,886 women took the test, with 44,614 passing resulting in the lower pass rate of 51%. While this might not appear too big a gap if it appeared in isolation, perhaps for just one year, when we analysed the statistics from 2013 to 2018, we found a similar trend. At the regional level, and in Co. Leitrim alone, the most recent CSO statistics indicate that 18% more men than women hold a full license in the county – 11,919 compared with 10,0525, with an overall pass driving test pass rate of 61%**.
So, when it comes to drivers on the road there are significantly more male drivers. Less women drove years ago, that should have equalised over the years - but it hasn’t. Why is that?”
The Stereotype Effect
There are a number of issues that warrant a closer look to ensure there is fairness across the board when it comes to testing and driving in general, and to make sure that unconscious bias and stereotypical mindsets do not hold motorists back.
Ms McCarthy explained, “Aside from the difference in pass rates, we must question why women are far less likely to apply for the driving test. 12% more men than women applied for the test in 2019 (98,493 vs 87,886). What is stopping these female motorists?
"What we are seeing is that overall driving test results seem to be at odds with the subsequent driving records of men and women and we want to examine any factors that could be contributing to that.”
Ms McCarthy went on to comment, “A couple of years ago, the issue of gender representation at test centres received some attention and the RSA said at the time that they were looking to address the disparity between the number of male and female driving testers. At the time, just 23 out of 138 testers were women – only 17%. We obtained an update on these figures* to find they remain largely unchanged, currently standing at 114 male and 24 female testers. This is perhaps an area that should be looked at again.
"Unconscious bias and a lack of confidence could also have a big part to play. When it comes to the driving test, nerves on the day can have a lot to do with whether or not you pass. Could it be that women are just more nervous because we are subconsciously led to believe from years of what’s intended to be harmless teasing that women are worse drivers than men? To this end, we should be championing our women drivers and giving them a sense of surety in their capabilities.”
The most recent road casualty and collision figures from the RSA6 indicate:
- There were over three times more male road users who died on our roads in 2018 than women
- 1,231 more male road users than their female counterparts suffered non-fatal casualties.
- Road traffic offences are also more likely to be committed by means evidenced by the number of penalty points issued to both sexes on a yearly basis.
The most recent driving licence data from the CSO states that in 20197:
- 16,189 women aged between 17-20 had a full driving licence, while 61% (26,125) more males of the same age had obtained a full licence.
While the numbers with full licences might be expected to balance out over the years- they don’t; overall men have 14% more full licences, 1,501,333 versus 1,313,554.
5 As ref. 4