Female motorists are set to outnumber their male counterparts on the road, the RAC Foundation has revealed. There has been a dramatic narrowing of the gender gap on the roads since the mid-1990s, it claims. Women drivers in the US have already overtaken men, and it seems the UK is likely to follow this pattern too before long. The changing face of the country’s motorists will inevitably have a knock-on effect on car manufacturers’ future designs.
16.3m women licence holders were recorded in 2010, compared to 19m men. This gap has fallen dramatically since 1995, when there were 15.1m male drivers and 9.2m women drivers. The proportion of women holding licences over this period has also risen from 50% to 64%. Women are also driving further, with their mileage rising by more than a fifth between 1995 and 2010.
According to Stephen Glaister, Director of the RAC Foundation, the reason for women overtaking men in the driving licence stakes is greater social and financial independence, together with greater independence in their working lives, having children later and improved life expectancy.
Meanwhile, the percentage of men in their 20s holding licences has decreased by 14%. The drop in young men driving is believed to reflect tougher economic times, with more young males living at home and finding it harder to afford running a car.
The changing profile of motorists will have a dramatic impact on car manufacturers, believes Garel Rhys, emeritus professor of Motor Industry Economics, and Director for Automotive Industry Research at Cardiff Business School. With more women at the wheel, manufacturers will need to design more vehicles that appeal to both men and women. This is not to say that cars should become pink and fluffy! Women are typically cautious drivers and will prioritise safety, gentler lines and good power-assisted steering, among other things, Professor Rhys suggests.
The predicted rise in female motorists follows the news that increasing numbers of female taxi firms are springing up around the country, as the nation’s women opt for a female driver at the wheel.