teen driving, reckless driving

Teen Girl Drivers Becoming as Dangerous as Boys

September 20, 2010 07:00 AM
by Colleen Brondou
Teenage girls are getting into more fatal crashes—and admit to riskier behavior behind the wheel—than teenage boys. Are teen girls simply acting more like the boys?

Girls Driving More Recklessly Than Boys

Although teenage boys have long taken the rap for being the most reckless drivers on the road, teenage girls are now gaining that reputation for themselves. According to “Shifting Teen Attitudes: The State of Teen Driving 2009,” a report released by The Allstate Foundation, girls admit to speeding, driving aggressively, and using a cell phone or adjusting music while driving more often than boys.

Julie Wernau, writing for the Chicago Tribune, points out that auto insurance rates for girls have responded to the trend. Thomas DeFalco, an actuary at the New Jersey Manufacturers Insurance Co., told Wernau that 20 years ago, it cost twice as much to insure teen boys as girls, but it now costs 20 to 30% more.

Most worrisome of all, more young women are driving while intoxicated and getting into fatal crashes than ever before. According to data from the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), quoted in HealthDay News, over a 12-year period, the number of female drivers between the ages of 16 and 24 who were involved in fatal alcohol-related accidents rose by 3.1 percent; the rate for male drivers increased just 1.2 percent.

Background: Is “the death of femininity” to blame?

Tracy Clark-Flory took at look at the recent studies on teen drivers—and what experts are saying in response—for Salon Magazine. According to Clark-Flory, experts have come to the same conclusion: “Young women are acting like dudes” and “the death of femininity” is to blame.

Clark-Flory points to the Chicago Tribune’s coverage of the Allstate report and a quote from Allan Williams, former chief scientist at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. "As more young women participate in activities like competitive sports and take on a more assertive lifestyle, they're narrowing the gender gap when it comes to risk taking in all aspects of their life," Williams said.

But Clark-Flory contends that the studies “present problems.” The Allstate study is based on self-reporting, which is unreliable, and the NHTSA study, though based “on solid evidence, raises an alarm that is dramatically muted when you consider that the rate among young women is still far lower than that of young men.”

Opinion & Analysis: Why are teens reckless?

A “teenage myth of invulnerability” assumes that teens’ recklessness comes from a belief in their immunity to harm. A study published in the July 2009 issue of Pediatrics magazine, however, revealed teens’ shockingly pessimistic views on their life expectancy: Approximately 15 percent of the 20,000 teenagers surveyed believed they would probably die before the age of 35. For many teenagers, this fatalistic outlook on life leads to careless life choices and behavior, and threatens to turn pessimism into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Related Topic: Teen-centered driving program saves lives

Driving deaths among teenagers in Texas have declined steadily in the last five years as a result of more effective driver’s license laws and an influential teen-centered education program. Teens in the Driver Seat, a peer-to-peer campaign operated by teens themselves at their own high schools, uses text message campaigns, a newsletter and a video contest to raise awareness about the risks of driving for teenagers.

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