Select Committee on European Union Written Evidence

Memorandum by The AA Motoring Trust


The AA Motoring Trust

  The AA established The AA Motoring Trust in 2002 to create a single charity through which its historic public interest work developing motoring and road safety could be focused. In January 2003, The AA Motoring Trust became the sole trustee of the AA Foundation for Road Safety Research and the former AA Motoring Policy Committee stood down in favour of the new charity.

  The AA Motoring Trust sponsors and undertakes research and provides advocacy, advice and information across the field of motoring, roads and transport and the environment. It has special interest in social issues surrounding car use.

  The charity plays a leading role in the European Road Assessment Programme and other international collaborative projects. The AA has gifted its public policy research to The AA Motoring Trust to draw on as it sees appropriate.

AA Foundation for Road Safety Research Studies on young drivers

  The AA Foundation for Road Safety Research has commissioned four reports on young drivers, which have been influential in helping to shape policy on learning to drive, and the penalty points sanction that is applied to all new drivers, ie a new driver who records 6 penalty points within the first two years of driving must re-take the driving test.

  The AA Foundation studies into young drivers are:

    —  Accident risk and behavioural patterns of younger drivers (Southampton University 1991);

    —  "Safe and unsafe"—a comparative study of younger male drivers (Southampton University 1992);

    —  Male and female drivers: how different are they? (Reading University 1998);

    —  Cradle attitudes—grave consequences (Reading University 2002).

  The fundamental findings of these studies were:

    —  most young drivers have the skills to drive safely, but some choose not to do so;

    —  young male drivers are much more at risk than women drivers;

    —  attitudes are formed well before driving age.

  Copies of these reports can be provided to the Committee.

Are women safer drivers than men?

  The Department for Transport's road accident statistics for 2002 show that men (259,856) are involved in well over twice as many accidents as women (105,584). The number of men injured (106,420) is nearly twice that of women (58,811). These differences are not, however, as marked when mileages driven are taken into account.

  Men predominate in the Home Office's statistics of motoring offences, committing 89 per cent of offences (2001). Generally, the more serious the offence, the higher the proportion of offenders who are male.

  The insurance industry's actuarial interest is in the cost of claims incurred per year covered, including damage only. With this indicator, younger women's lower accident costs mean that they pose less risk to insurers than younger men, and this is reflected in the insurance premium. Road safety policy is concerned particularly with personal injury accidents, and road safety targets with death and serious injuries.

What is the impact of gender difference on risk?

  A study—Male and female drivers: how different are they?—commissioned by the AA Foundation for Road Safety Research and carried out by Reading University found that:

    —  Men and women aged 17-20 are more likely to be involved in accidents on bends—men nearly twice as often. This difference decreases as drivers mature and the proportion of bend accidents is almost the same for both sexes above the age of 35.

    —  Young men are twice as likely as women to be involved in an accident when they are overtaking, but the difference diminishes as age increases.

    —  Nearly half of all accidents involving young men, and a third of those involving young women, occur when it is dark.

    —  The reasons for the different types of accidents, and for the higher fatality risk among men, was because men drive faster, commit more driving violations, are more inclined to drink or take illegal drugs and drive, and are prepared to drive for longer periods without a break.

    —  The differences in the pattern of accident involvement between men and women have remained remarkably constant over the past 20 years, despite the fact that the proportion of women drivers has increased hugely.

    —  In three different types of assessment—observations, self report and video test—men consistently chose higher speeds than women of the same age and driving experience.

    —  The relationship between traffic violations and accident involvement is well established, and the AA Foundation research, like earlier studies, found that young men reported more frequently breaking the law than young women. Young male drivers were more likely than any other age group to be stopped by the police.

    —  Men aged 17-20 said that they had been stopped, on average, just over 1.8 times in the last three years, women of the same age were stopped, on average around 0.3 times over the same period.

    —  Men in the study group aged 30-50 admitted to drinking the most alcohol before driving, and men generally indicated that they were prepared to drink more than women, suggesting that there is an element of premeditation in male drinking habits.

    —  Men on their own drove faster and closer to the car in front than women on their own, but if a young man was with them in the car, both men and women drove more dangerously. A young woman passenger made young men drive more safely, but made no difference to the already safe driving performance of women.

What is the impact of gender risk on insurance premia?

  AA Insurance shows that for a standard Ford Focus women are consistently seen as better risks on the road than men until they reach the age of 55. But for the next 20 years, their premiums are slightly more than men's. It is difficult to explain the rates beyond that age—possibly because of the low numbers of woman drivers covered.

  Comparison table for male and female drivers:




  The premiums are for comprehensive cover for an S reg. (1998) 1.4 litre Ford Focus CL5 door. All ages had maximum no-claims discount (ie full premium for 17 year old, one year for 18 year old, etc).

    —  Living in Cambridge (CBI).

    —  Five years no claims for 25 year old and above (no NCD for 17 and 21 year old).

    —  Occupation is clerical/admin staff (except the 65, 75 and 85 year old—all retired).

    —  Car is garaged with standard security.

    —  Car is 1998 (S reg) value = approx £5,800.

What will the impact of the Directive be on women drivers?

  A ban on gender discrimination would force UK insurers to adopt a single pricing policy for car insurance, resulting in higher premiums for most women drivers. Women of most ages have long benefited from cheaper premiums than men due to the fact that they present less financial risk to motor insurers.

  Research by the AA Foundation for Road Safety Research has consistently shown that young male drivers represent the highest risk on UK roads and that they are six times more likely to be killed behind the wheel than their parents. Women tend to have a more cautious driving style and suffer less catastrophic accidents than men. As a result, women's insurance claims tend to be smaller. Underwriters reward this by passing on lower premiums. There is every suggestion that women not only have less accidents than men, but that they also have less serious, and therefore less expensive accidents.

  The key issue is whether or not using gender as part of the insurance pricing process is perceived as discrimination. It has been widely considered acceptable for one group to pay more for insurance if there is sound, justifiable evidence to show that they represent a higher risk as a direct result of their age, gender, occupation, postal address etc. In the case of car insurance, this allows underwriters to price on a fair basis by tailoring premiums to customers' own risk circumstances.

  If the Directive is implemented without making motor insurers exempt, the result would be significant premium increases for many women, who would be penalised by subsidising the premiums for more risky male drivers by the very law designed to help them.


  The UK has the safest roads in Europe. It has been a long established principle of motor insurance in the UK to insure the driver, and not specifically the car. By far the biggest single actuarial factor in assessing the risk is the character, make-up and experience of the driver, with the type of car, driver occupation and postal address all secondary factors. The four studies of young drivers commissioned by the AA Foundation for Road Safety Research has shown that young male drivers are a much greater risk than their young female peers, and that is confirmed by the accident statistics.

  Insurers reflect that element of risk in premia, which is why female drivers pay a lower premium in the early years of their driving. Prohibiting insurers from applying rates related to risk would result in a statistically safer group of drivers subsidising the less safe group.

  The AA Trust supports efforts to end all forms of discrimination where it works against fairness and equity between different groups in society. However, the law of unintended consequences may well be applying here in that the very group the new law intends to help will incur greater cost.

  The AA Trust believes that where actuarial data justifies a lower motor insurance premium to a particular group that should continue to be permitted.

April 2004

previous page contents next page

House of Lords home page Parliament home page House of Commons home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2004