For the first time in American history, women drivers now exceed the amount of licensed drivers in the United States over men. The news came after a study by the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute, which viewed gender trends in drivers licenses between 1995 and 2010, released its results. This reverses a long time gap between male and female drivers, dating all the way back to Henry Ford’s first Model T.
During the early twentieth century, women drivers were a minority and were ridiculed by men for driving. The trend continued in the Eisenhower era when only half of women eligible for drivers licenses held them; they were mostly expected to play the role of “homemakers” and raise families. As women started to enter the workforce and the idea of “women’s liberation” began to gain popularity, women started to drive more. By 1995, the number of women who obtained driver’s licenses were only slightly behind men, and in 2010, the trend finally reversed itself.
Not only has the gap between male and female drivers reversed, it is expected to continue to widen. The study shows that over the past 15 years, the number of Americans with drivers licenses has decreased but licensed male drivers have decreased with margins much larger than female drivers. The rate of licensed male drivers from 25-years-old to 29-years-old has declined by 10.6 percent, while it has only declined by 4.7 percent in women, meaning the rate of male drivers has declined twice as much in in the age bracket as female drivers.
Experts believe that fewer men are receiving their driver’s licenses due to the expense of automobiles and insurance increasing in recent years while women still see receiving their licenses a form of liberation despite the cost.
The change in demographics will have a crucial impact on the demand in vehicles sold in the United States. Demographers predict that women drivers are more likely to demand a car that is safer, smaller and more energy efficient.
Experts also ponder whether the change will make roadways more or less safe in the future. A 2011 UMTRI study published in the journal Traffic Injury Prevention found that car accidents involving two women occur at much higher rates than males. While this is true, according to a 2011 MetLife Auto and Home American Safety Pulse poll, women die half as much in car accidents than men and receive fewer tickets for reckless driving.
While it is too early to see the exact impact on the roadways, the MetLife Auto study shows that both women and men are in agreement that women are better drivers. 51 percent of women believe that they are superior drivers, 25 percent believe that men are and the rest are undecided. Only 39 percent of men believe that they are better drivers and 26 percent believe that women are.
More U.S. Women than Men have a Driver’s License , NBC News, November 24, 2012