Do Men and Women Commit Different Types of Driving Violations?

This was a question posed to me by an audience member at a recent speaking engagement, based on his observation at his small town’s local courthouse that males seemed to predominate on the speeding offenses, while women seemed more prone to things like traffic signal/stop sign violations.

It’s an interesting question, one that, like many things in traffic, I imagine is difficult to tease out of the official citation statistics (as that wouldn’t give us the exposure data, among other things).

It did put me in mind of a recent study, “Committing driving violations: An observational study comparing city, town and village,” by Tova Rosenbloom and colleagues at Israel’s Bar Ilan University, published in the most recent Journal of Safety Science. This paper looked at five traffic violations (“(a) not wearing a seat belt (seat belt violation); (b) not using a safety seat for a child (safety seat violation for children); (c) not using a speaker while speaking on the phone (on-phone violation); (d) failing to comply with a ‘give way’ sign (‘give way’ sign violation); and (e) stopping in an undesignated area (undesignated stop violation).”) in three settings: City, town, small village.

There was a clear gender effect, but essentially it was that men were more likely to commit violations of any type than women (I didn’t see it gender data coded by violation type), which is not surprising.

But there was another, perhaps more interesting finding: The highest level of violations came not in a city like Tel Aviv, but in the villages (which had around 3,000 and 800 residents).

The researchers speculated a number of reasons: The more complex city driving environment challenges drivers and forces them to pay more attention (they also feel it to be riskier, even if it actually isn’t, which explains greater seat-belt compliance) there may be less law enforcement in the smaller areas, the drivers in the small towns may be more likely to be local drivers (whose familiarity with the road environment breeds a relaxed attitude toward whatever signals and regulations are in force).

And if anyone has seen any studies examining violation types by gender, please advise.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, November 4th, 2009 at 9:00 am and is filed under Traffic Psychology, Traffic safety. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

5 Responses to “Do Men and Women Commit Different Types of Driving Violations?”

  1. Mark Young Says:

    Hi Tom,

    My understanding of the gender difference in driving behaviour is that men tend to make more deliberate (and risky) violations, while women are more prone to slips, lapses and misjudgements. One paper to show this, which used self-report data, is in the journal Ergonomics:

    Reason, J., Manstead, A., Stradling, S., Baxter, J., & Campbell, K. (1990). Errors and violations on the roads: a real distinction? Ergonomics, 33(10/11), 1315-1332.

    I’m sure there have been more since, and I’m pretty certain Leonard Evans discusses the gender divide in Traffic Safety.


  2. nick Says:

    There is an excellent paper called “Killed by Automobile” from the advocacy group Right of Way (, which analyzes pedestrian and cyclist deaths by automobile in New York City.

    From the paper:

    “For the 820 fatalities in which the identity of the driver was established, 747, or 91 percent, of the drivers were men; 73 (9 percent) were women. In contrast, women account for an estimated 25 percent of vehicle-miles driven on New York City streets, excluding
    highways, indicating that women are under-represented as killer/drivers by a factor of 2 to 3, while men are correspondingly overrepresented.”

    “For the 63 cyclist fatalities in which driver gender was reported, only two, or 3 percent, were women. This is a startling figure. Recall that the male share of street driving in New York City is estimated to be 75 percent. Even though the male driving share in Manhattan, where cycling is concentrated, may be higher, the fact that 97 percent of cyclist-killers were men strongly suggests that driver aggression (and not just cyclist impulsiveness) plays a significant role in killing bicycle-riders in New York City.”

    “Based on these figures and the gender differences noted above, we observe that death by automobile, in New York City, is largely a matter of one group of people — young men — killing two other groups: older men, and women of all ages.”

    The report also notes that 5% of deaths of pedestrians and cyclists by automobile occurs on sidewalks and other areas where driving is prohibited!

  3. nick Says:

    The problem with the Israeli study cited is that citations are an imperfect measure of violations. An equally valid explanation to explain why smaller towns have more citations than big cities is that smaller towns have more enforcement than big cities.

  4. gpsman Says:

    “And if anyone has seen any studies examining violation types by gender, please advise.”

    Good luck with that. The feds seem to concentrate on collecting crash data, specifically fatal crashes, especially if your route happened to include passing within 1000′ of a bar so they can classify it as “alcohol-related”.

    Best I could do:

    Unrelated but essential reading is fhwa-rd-02-003

  5. rob Says:

    small municipalities vs larger ones… from an enforcement presepective police are more likely to give warnings to those they know… police are more likely to know the person they’ve stopped in a smaller town… look at traffic stats of police like the RCMP or OPP who police rural and urban… same force same training but different apporaches depending on the town/rural district vs a city detachment IE Surrey RCMP vs Kingsville OPP

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