Let’s be honest: driving is a skill, and some people are better at it than others. Safe driving is mostly a state of mind, and some people are more concerned with road safety than others are.
Skills and attitudes vary among individuals, but when drivers are grouped by age, gender, and other demographic factors, some very clear patterns appear. Accident and insurance statistics tell us that young, male drivers (especially those 16-19 years of age) are almost five times more deadly on the road than middle-aged women.
Insurance companies track many factors that correlate with safe driving and price their auto policies accordingly. Gender and age are two of the most important. Another element that carries significant weight is marital status.
Whether you chalk it up to cultural or biological differences, men and women are different. After accounting for variations of individual personalities, the overall differences in behavior between men and women are well documented.
Insurance companies are all about managing risk, but one key male personality trait is engaging in risky behavior. According to the nonprofit Population Reference Bureau, “… Men’s more risky unhealthy behaviors are a major reason they die younger. Their higher rates of cigarette smoking, heavy drinking, gun use, employment in hazardous occupations, and risk taking in recreation and driving are responsible for males’ higher death rate due to lung cancer, accidents, suicide, and homicide.”
These acknowledged behavioral differences between men and women are most pronounced among adolescents and young adults. Research from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services showed that young men are considerably more likely than young women to engage in a wide assortment of risky behaviors:
|Risky behavior||Male||Female||Male Differential|
|Drink alcohol by age 13||17%||12%||+29%|
|Use marijuana by age 16||36%||33%||+8%|
|Use other drugs||29%||26%||+10%|
|Attack someone/get in a fight||35%||21%||+40%|
|Be a member of a gang||11%||5%||+55%|
|Steal something worth less than $50||50%||41%||+18%|
|Steal something worth more than $50||19%||10%||+47%|
When it comes to behaviors related to driving, male drivers are quantitatively more prone to risk than women. U.S. Department of Transportation statistics show that male drivers cause nearly one and a half times more fatal auto accidents than women. Male drivers also cause more than three times more alcohol-related deaths than female drivers and about 2.4 times more speed-related deaths than female drivers.
|Crash Death Statistic||Male||Female||Male Differential|
|2013 Motor Vehicle Crash Deaths||23,127||9,579||+141%|
|2013 Alcohol-Related Deaths by Driver Gender (blood alcohol at least 0.08%)||4,106||989||+315%|
|2013 Speed-Related Deaths by Driver Gender||3,415||1,013||+237%|
It should come as no surprise, then, that gender is a factor in calculating auto insurance rates. A male driver under the age of 25 can minimize the higher cost of “driving while male” by doing the following:
- Keeping a clean driving record. It’s impossible to overstate the importance of not getting tickets and not getting into accidents. Safe driving is truly its own reward.
- Taking advantage of other discounts. Talk to your agent and find out whether you might qualify for a good student discount (for high school- and college-age drivers), a good driver discount, or a married driver rate (for those who qualify).
- Shop around for coverage. Some insurance companies penalize male drivers more than others, so it’s possible that you can get comparable coverage from a different company at a lower price. An experienced independent agent can steer you toward the companies that will give you the right coverage at a price point that works for you.
If age brings experience, then it seems obvious that youth brings inexperience. It’s naïve to expect a youthful driver of 16 or 17 to have the same decision-making capabilities as a driver with several decades of driving. It takes years of driving to develop the skills, awareness, and prudence to be a truly safe driver.
But don’t take our word for it. The numbers don’t lie. Looking again at the statistics from the U.S. DOT and you’ll see that young drivers (aged 16-19) are three times more likely to cause fatal crashes than more experienced drivers (aged 30-69). Naturally, the differences are even more pronounced for young male drivers.
Young people pay a premium for the privilege of driving—or at least, their parents do. Since the risk is so much higher, the cost is higher too. A person is considered a “youthful driver,” until age 25, which is generally when the “youth penalty” begins to level out.
Strategies for countering the higher auto insurance rates associated with young drivers are the same methods outlined above. Be especially careful to avoid accidents and tickets, shop around, and make use of any available discounts. Only experience can bring experience.
It’s hard to imagine that walking down the aisle instantly makes a person more responsible and careful, but insurance industry statistics suggest that this may actually be true. Almost every insurance company charges lower rates for married drivers compared to single drivers. The difference is greatest for younger male drivers, who will see the biggest drop in premiums once the cake is cut and the bouquet is thrown.
There’s considerable disagreement regarding why married drivers tend to be safer drivers. Some suggest that it’s because married people drive fewer miles, or that people who get married tend to have more stable (and less risky) personalities. Others believe it’s as simple as, “My wife/husband will be really upset if I get in an accident.” Whatever the reason, being married will generally qualify you for a healthy discount on your car insurance.
That’s the upside of getting insurance as a married person. The downside is that insurance companies will factor both spouses’ driving records (and credit histories) when creating a quote. If the person you marry has multiple accidents or citations, you may actually end up paying more.
Other Factors Affecting Your Auto Insurance Rate
Age, gender, and marital status are important considerations, but they’re not the only elements that get factored into your auto insurance rate. Here are a few more:
Driving Record: Depending on the violation, a single speeding ticket can increase your auto insurance rate by more than 20 percent. Research shows that reckless driving is the worst violation to have, followed by driving under the influence and driving without a license. An accident can be even worse for your insurance rate—a recent study showed that a single claim of $2,000 can cause a driver’s rate to go up by over 40 percent.
Credit Score: Most insurance companies factor in your credit score when they quote you a rate for auto insurance. This is because studies have proven that people with better credit scores tend to be safer drivers, and that people who are irresponsible with their financial dealings also tend to be irresponsible behind the wheel.
Grade Point Average: Whether you’re in high school or college, you can turn your good grades into lower rates. Maintaining a 3.0 GPA or higher can result in a discount of up to 20 percent with most insurance companies. Poor students don’t get penalized for bad grades, but they also don’t qualify for the discounts.
Education: Having a college degree may qualify you for additional discounts with some insurance companies. While some view this as a penalty for those without higher education, statistics show that college graduates tend to be safer drivers. Take advantage of the discount, if you can.
Occupation: Believe it or not, your profession can impact your insurance premium. This varies from one insurance company to another, but it’s certainly true that people in certain occupations (especially high-stress jobs that involve lots of overtime and sleep deprivation) are at a higher risk for accidents.
Vehicle: Insurance companies consider a bunch of vehicle-related factors. Some of these include whether the car is new(er) or old(er), the vehicle’s safety features, the size of the vehicle (which often indicates how well it will protect you in a crash), and the cost to replace the vehicle if it’s totaled. Another big consideration is whether the car is a “thief magnet.” Popular vehicles like the Honda Accord, Honda Civic, Chevy Silverado, and Ford F-150 are stolen more often than other vehicles—which means they are replaced more often by insurance companies.