CR 178: Women behind the wheel: Statistical overview of road crash involvement (1998)

This report forms part of a series published by the Federal Office of Road Safety (FORS) on women and road safety. It presents national road crash statistics for women, and in particular, women drivers involved in fatal crashes and crashes resulting in hospitalisation. There are two other reports in this series: a review of published female driver research and an analysis of attitudes and driving behaviours of young and middle-aged women obtained through a recent survey of women from across Australia.

Even though the national road toll is decreasing, the number of women drivers killed and hospitalised is increasing. This is due an increase in the number of women obtaining drivers licences and an increase in the amount of travel they are undertaking. The presence of women as drivers is expected to continue to grow since the level of licensing and the amount of distance travelled is still below that of men. In 1995, 79% of women aged 17 years or over had driving or motor cycle licences compared to 96% of men, and, for every kilometre driven in cars by women, men drove 1.5 kilometres.

Despite the increases in travel by women, the rate of fatalities and the rate of hospitalisations per distance driven is continuing to decrease for both male and female drivers indicating that improvements in roads, car design and road safety campaigns are impacting on both male and female drivers. However, the rates at which the decreases are occurring are faster for men than women for both fatal and non-fatal injuries. Between 1976 and 1995 the fatality rate for female car drivers has decreased approximately 3.9% per year compared with a decrease of 4.9% per year for male car drivers. Similarly, between 1980 and 1995 the hospitalisation rate for female car drivers has decreased approximately 3.2% per year compared with 4.4% for male car drivers. Specifically targeting women drivers may address imbalances as well as ensuring further reductions.

In spite of the relative differences in the rates of change, men still have a considerably higher fatality rate than women. In 1995, the fatality rate for male car drivers (0.76 deaths per 100 million km) was 1.64 times higher than that for female car drivers (0.46). However, the differential between men and women decreases for less severe crashes. In fact, the rate of hospitalisation of female car drivers (8.35 per 100 million km driven) is 1.15 times higher than that for men (7.35 per 100 million km driven).

For both men and women, the rates of death and injury per distance travelled are highest for the youngest and oldest drivers. The most common age of female drivers killed or hospitalised in road crashes is 18 years. A total of 41% of both male and female drivers aged under 25 who are involved in hospitalisation crashes have learner’s or provisional licences. Typical crash scenarios differ according to age and gender in similar patterns. Hospitalisation crashes involving younger drivers and male drivers are more typically single vehicle or head-on crashes, occurring at night or on weekends, often involving alcohol, whereas crashes involving older drivers or female drivers are more typically crashes at intersections, in lower speed zones occurring during the day and on weekdays and not generally involving alcohol.

Type: Research and Analysis Report

Sub Type: Consultant Report

Author(s): R Attewell

ISBN: 0 642 25525 3

ISSN: 0810-770X

Topics: Crash data, Gender

Publication Date: 01/05/98