Driving In Cars With Girls: Teens Making Bad Choices

Despite the stereotypes about women drivers, teen girls have always been charged less by insurance companies. But several new studies show that girls are getting more aggressive behind the wheel...and a lot less sober.

A survey by Allstate revealed that more girls multitask while driving than boys - especially when it comes to socializing. Girls are more likely to admit to using their cellphones while driving, to either talk or text. Out of the kids surveyed, 50% said they have texted while driving, although researchers believe the actual number is probably much higher. The same survey found that more girls are willing to label themselves "aggressive drivers" than before, and they have even surpassed boys in the "aggressive" category. The percentage of aggressive male drivers has fallen from 19% in 2005 to 13% in 2010 while the number of pushy female drivers have risen from 9% to 16%.

Girls are also more likely to admit to speeding 10 miles an hour (48% of girls vs. 36% of boys). "It is somewhat surprising. Girls are becoming a little more aggressive as far as driving with speed," said Jeff Ormond from Allstate. "They're adopting some of that traditional male behavior and it's just kind of closing the gender gap, so to speak."

And what's worse: the gender gap for drunk drivers - and more importantly, drunk driving collisions - is closing as well. While young women are still far less likely to get into an accident than men, the rates are rising among some age groups. The past few years have seen a decrease in the number of fatal accidents involving male drunk drivers, but 19 year-old women, and women aged 21 to 24 are contributing to an opposite trend.

I was fairly recently a teen girl myself, and unlike Anna North, I don't mind driving. During my teen years, I actually kind of loved it. But while I was never really an aggressive driver, I did have a propensity to disregard speed limits. There was a time when I came very close to losing my license, and had Massachusetts and New York had better communication about their ticketing policies, I surely would have. However, almost all of my tickets and accidents (yes, there has been more than one) occurred within a few years of receiving my license. Insurance companies know this, which is why they charge so much more for teen drivers. Teens, boys and girls, tend to be more reckless, to drive with a certain arrogance. When coupled with alcohol and suburban boredom, this is a recipe for disaster. And yet, it is a rite of passage for many kids sit for hours at the DMV waiting for their number to appear on the screen so they can take an extraordinarily simple short quiz and receive temporary sanction to drive. It was one of the few exciting things about high school - the mind-numbing boredom of Drivers Ed notwithstanding. Driving meant freedom, and at 16, this feels like the most important thing in the world. Would we be any safer if the driving age was raised to 18, or even 20? I'm not sure; it might prove a more effective measure than raising insurance, but maybe one of the reasons we haven't done it yet has to do with the strange nostalgia I feel when I think back on my early years as a driver (speeding tickets and all).

Fortunately for teen girls (or, as is often the case, their parents) insurance companies aren't quite ready to change their pricing policies. Allstate spokeswoman Shaundra Turner explained: "Experience tells us that teenage girls are safer drivers than teenage boys. Until that information changes, our rates will remain the same."

Teen Girls Racing Ahead Of Teen Boys In Dangerous Driving Habits [Chicago Sun-Times]
Alcohol Implicated In The Rising Toll Of Fatal Car Crashes Involving Young Women [EurekAlert]
Study: Girls Becoming More Aggressive Behind The Wheel [Eyewitness News]
Alcohol Implicated In The Rising Toll Of Fatal Car Crashes Involving Young Women Drivers [Science Daily]