Let’s talk about sex

Covered mag, presented by Gocompare.com
  • | by Kristian Dando

The decision by the European Court of Justice to ban insurance companies from factoring a motorist’s sex into their calculations for car insurance premiums has been given a frosty welcome by drivers and industry figures alike.

Head of business development at Gocompare.com John Miles said: “If they (insurers) are unable to use gender as a risk, they may need to increase prices to cover the risk of losses.” Director of AA Insurance, Simon Douglas said: "It's important not to confuse equality with fairness. The calculation of car insurance premiums based on risk is by definition fair, but is incompatible with gender equality," he says.

All the evidence points to women being safer drivers than men, particularly in the case of younger drivers. But why is this so?

A study conducted by the Social Issues Research Centre in Oxford, Sex Differences in Driving and Insurance Risk states: “men, and young men in particular, tend to be more aggressive than women in all known cultures…they express aggression directly, which has a very significant impact on driving, encouraging more competitive and hostile behaviour and a higher probability of crashing.” The study also pointed to differences between the sexes in terms of risk-proneness, and higher levels of sensation-seeking in many levels of activities, attributed to a well-established difference in hormones such as testosterone.

In the report’s conclusion, it was suggested that less-safe driving was ‘hard-wired’ into men. “Motor insurance underwriting takes gender differentiation into account to ensure that each gender effectively pays for its own class at different ages. Young men are charged more than young women because they cause more frequent and expensive accidents. This is justified on the basis of evidence."

Last year, a study by the Institute of Advanced Motorists suggested that men and women’s attitudes to driving weren’t as different as one may expect. The research found that men and women are equally likely to admit to speeding, parking fines or losing their temper. Without being able to factor sex into insurance prices, new initiatives could come into play. Technology-based telematics insurance which monitors driving behaviour is one example which has been mooted. “These could be further developed to allow insurers to more accurately match a driver's insurance premium to their actual risk," says Gocompare.com’s Miles.