Cars, driving, and masculinity

Driving is shaped by gender – by the meanings given to being male or female and the social organisation of men’s and women’s lives and relations. There are significant associations between men, masculinity, and risky driving.

Risky driving behaviours

Men are more likely than women to show various risky driving behaviours, as national data on self-reported driving behaviour in Australia finds. Males are more likely than females to:

International studies find that, despite the stereotypes of women as worse drivers than men, men are involved in more accidents, get more traffic fines, & report more traffic violations than women, even after controlling for mileage (González-Iglesias, Gómez-Fraguela, & Luengo-Martín, 2012).

  • In a Spanish survey, controlling for mileage driven, males reported greater number of fines and accidents and were more prone to violating traffic regulations (González-Iglesias et al., 2012).

Other and older sources also note greater involvement in risky driving by men than women:

  • Men are more prone to speeding than women (Mast, Sieverding, Esslen, Graber, & Jäncke, 2008).
  • Injury on the road is a leading cause of death for young men. And young men’s road accident rates are much higher than those for other groups (Connell, 2000: 184). For example, young male drivers aged 17 to 25 are involved in 4 times as many serious speed-related casualties as young women (Connell, 2000: 185).

Support and tolerance for risky driving

Men also are more likely than women to hold a range of attitudes that are associated with dangerous or risk-taking behaviours. Males in Australia are more likely than females to:

  • Believe it is okay to speed if they are driving safely, and display a less conservative attitude towards speeding
  • Argue for allowing some degree of drinking while driving
  • Disapprove of lowering the blood alcohol limit
  • Reject a policy of zero tolerance for speeding
  • Oppose speed zones
  • Disapprove of point-to-point speed cameras
  • Disapprove of laws banning hands-free mobile phone use (Community Attitudes to Road Safety Australia, 2017).

Risky driving and masculinity

There is evidence that men who agree more strongly with stereotypical norms of masculinity (that men should take risks, be tough, and so on) are more likely to be involved in risky driving:

  • The ‘Man Box’ survey of young Australian men aged 18-30 showed an association between conformity to traditional masculinity and risky driving (as indicated by having been in a traffic accident in the last year). Over one third (38%) of young men with a high degree of conformity to Man Box attitudes had been in a traffic accident in the last year, compared to 11% of those with low conformity (The Men’s Project & Flood, 2018).
  • Surveys in other countries on young men’s attitudes to masculinity find similar findings: 23% versus 9% in the USA, and 28% and 7% in the UK (The Men’s Project & Flood, 2018, p. 33).
  • A German study finds that identification with a ‘macho’ personality is related to aggressive driving behaviour (Krahé & Fenske, 2002). Among male motorists, those who scored more highly on a measure of hypermasculinity were more likely than others to report aggressive driving. Also, more ‘macho’ men gave greater importance to speed and sportiness of a car and less importance to safety aspects than non-macho men.
  • In a French study of riders of heavy motorcycles, there were higher levels of risk-taking and violations of traffic rules among those with stronger agreement with masculinity (Coquelet, Granie, & Griffet, 2018).

However, not all studies find an association. A Turkish study found a relationship between number of traffic accidents and sex (being male), but not gender role (Özkan & Lajunen, 2006).

There is evidence from qualitative research of masculine car cultures that promote risky driving:

  • In focus groups among young people aged 15-25 in New South Wales, some young men linked driving skill and stereotypical masculinity, encouraging forms of risky driving that put them at greater risk of injury and crashing than the approaches of young women (Redshaw, 2006).
  • This echoes earlier Australian research finding that among some young people there is a highly masculine car culture focused on “competitiveness, freedom, mateship, display, technical skill and agility, speed and performance” (Walker, Butland, & Connell, 2000, p. 160).

Gender, anger, and road rage

Driver-related violence and aggression is most often by young men, against other young men.

  • In a population survey of 1,208 West Australian drivers, both aggressive driving behaviours and driving-related violence were typically perpetrated by young males against other males. Driving-related violence reflected young males’ sense of threats to masculine honour and the use of aggression as a way to perform masculinity (Roberts & Indermaur, 2005).
  • In a Spanish survey, men were more likely than women to express anger in physical aggression, females in verbal aggression (González-Iglesias et al., 2012).

References

Note: Also see this bibliography on masculinity, cars, and driving.

Coquelet, C., Granie, M.-A., & Griffet, J. (2018). Conformity to gender stereotypes, motives for riding and aberrant behaviors of French motorcycle riders. Journal of Risk Research, 1-12.

González-Iglesias, B., Gómez-Fraguela, J. A., & Luengo-Martín, M. Á. (2012). Driving anger and traffic violations: Gender differences. Transportation Research Part F: Traffic Psychology and Behaviour, 15(4), 404-412. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.trf.2012.03.002

Krahé, B., & Fenske, I. (2002). Predicting aggressive driving behavior: The role of macho personality, age, and power of car. Aggressive Behavior: Official Journal of the International Society for Research on Aggression, 28(1), 21-29.

Mast, M. S., Sieverding, M., Esslen, M., Graber, K., & Jäncke, L. (2008). Masculinity causes speeding in young men. Accident Analysis & Prevention, 40(2), 840-842.

Özkan, T., & Lajunen, T. (2006). What causes the differences in driving between young men and women? The effects of gender roles and sex on young drivers’ driving behaviour and self-assessment of skills. Transportation Research Part F: Traffic Psychology and Behaviour, 9(4), 269-277.

Redshaw, S. (2006). Dangerous gender performances: ‘Hydraulic masculinity’as a norm for young male drivers. Paper presented at the Proceedings 2006 Australasian Road Safety, Research, Policing and Education Conference.

Roberts, L., & Indermaur, D. (2005). Boys and road rage: driving-related violence and aggression in Western Australia. Australian & New Zealand Journal of Criminology, 38(3), 361-380.

The Men’s Project, & Flood, M. (2018). The Man Box: A Study on Being a Young Man in Australia. Retrieved from Melbourne:

Walker, L., Butland, D., & Connell, R. W. (2000). Boys on the road: Masculinities, car culture, and road safety education. The Journal of Men’s Studies, 8(2), 153-169.