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Are women really less confident drivers?

A female driver in her carWomen are generally considered by insurers to be safer drivers and are rewarded with cheaper car insurance premiums. But is this stereotype a reality? We consider the part that gender plays in our motoring habits.

Gender differences have long been a controversial issue in motoring. Women's car insurance is often cheaper as insurers tend to consider them better drivers, while men – particularly those of a young age – get a reputation for being susceptible to road rage and boy-racer habits.

However, a new study by the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) has found that men and women aren’t that different after all. Surprised?

The findings 

The research revealed that most men and women enjoy driving and consider themselves confident, considerate and safe motorists.

Both sexes also take a similar approach to driving, and are equally likely to admit to speeding, poor parking behaviour or losing their temper, according to the study. 

The main difference was seen in the level of confidence, with almost twice as many men as women claiming to be ‘very confident’ behind the wheel. 

And some traditional stereotypes remain when it comes to looking after the vehicle. Men are more likely to take responsibility for car maintenance and legal documentation, and, if both are travelling in one car, men tend to do the driving. This is despite women saying being a passenger with their partner behind the wheel makes them feel less relaxed.

Improving driving skills and confidence

When it comes to improving their skills, men and women feel they would be more confident if they took an advanced driving course, something which would not only boost expertise and safety but also lead to lower car insurance premiums. 

The IAM advises women to gain more experience behind the wheel to help boost their confidence. They should be assertive and do more of the driving, particularly in bad weather or on motorways, to build up their skills. 

Figures show that women are considerably less likely to have an accident, which is why they enjoy lower car insurance costs, so they should be confident in their abilities and not avoid driving out of perceived risk. 

Tips to improve driving confidence

If you do have trouble with your behind-the-wheel confidence, here are some simple tips which should help:

1. Get more practice. It sounds obvious and daunting, but getting behind the wheel more often will make you realise that you are a safe, competent driver and can deal with anything. Challenge yourself to get out in more difficult conditions and don’t avoid driving new routes or at night - embrace the different conditions and use your skills to their full potential. Practice makes perfect! 

2. Take an advanced driving course or test. Advanced driver programmes are a great way to improve your skills and ensure you are prepared for any situation. They will test you in new ways and give you new tips for dealing with the roads even at the most difficult times. Taking an advanced driver course or test can also lower your car insurance premiums. 

3. Read the Highway Code. If your confidence is knocked by road features such as roundabouts, dual carriageways or how to react when the emergency services approach, reading up on official guidance can give reassurance. Knowing how you should drive is the first step towards doing it, so do your homework and find out just what those signs mean before you see them and panic that you will do something wrong. 

4. Think carefully about what you are doing. Don’t just get in the car and drive without thinking - note how you behave and aim to change that for the better. Learn to feel how the car reacts and study your reactions to different situations carefully. By recognising any areas for improvement you can then work on them next time. 

5. Get to know your car. Many women lack confidence because they fear a breakdown or accident and would not know what to do in that situation. Learn the basics of car maintenance, such as changing the oil, checking tyre pressures and fitting the spare, so you can help yourself should the worse happen. Join a recovery scheme to give peace of mind in case of an accident, and always keep your phone charged and carry a blanket, bottle of water and some snacks, as well as the appropriate safety gear, such as warning triangle and first aid kit.