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driving it home

Jeremy Cato

My colleague Kate Robertson posed a question some days back here at Globe Drive: What's the difference between male and female drivers?

Her conclusion: confidence. Men are more confident drivers, even when they're clueless. We just plow ahead, whether we know what we're doing or not.

One driving instructor says men are more confident - even if they shouldn't be

Now you women know why we don't need maps and never use the instructions in the IKEA box.

Of course the debate over which is the superior sex, at least behind the wheel, is an old one - and apparently a very well-research one, too. Take this study called Sex differences in driving and insurance risk (

Men will be gratified to hear that the research says women are more likely than men to be involved in car accidents on a per-mile-driven basis (it's a U.S. study). Yes, yes, we have quicker reflexes and better spatial perception skills than women.

On the other hand, when men crash, we do it big-time. We're flat-out dangerous -- more likely (by 50-100 per cent versus women) to be in crashes involving loss of life.

Men tend to ignore the law, engage in more risk-taking behaviour, race for pink slips, drive drunk and behave aggressively behind the wheel.

We're wired for this, says the research. It's in our DNA to be sensation-loving thrill seekers. Men, the researchers conclude, are nothing more than hairy, mouth-breathing knuckle-draggers.

The report suggests that men evolved to have certain aggressive, risky behaviours in order to survive as hunters and gatherers in a dangerous, uncivilized world. Our speed and brawn allowed us to survive when the world was a harsh place, but these "strengths" are weaknesses on civilized roadways where co-operation is at a premium.

Leda Cosmides and John Tooby describe the male evolutionary experience as "a camping trip that lasted an entire lifetime, and this way of life endured for most of the last 10 million years."

This begs the question: are men evolved enough to be let loose on public roads? Certain researchers apparently believe so only if men can somehow overcome millions of years of evolution - or, as I am sure many of you will argue, lack of it.