Men at the wheel, danger around the corner!

Men at the wheel, danger around the corner!

In Paris, on this winter morning, eleven men are attentively following a road safety awareness course, and all profiles, all ages, all professional categories are represented. What do they have in common? Speeding and “testosterone”.

In France, almost eight out of ten killed in road accidents are men, according to official figures, and in this small room in the 11th arrondissement of the capital, the two facilitators want to make the trainees think about this “excess risk male”.

How can we explain this difference between men and women behind the wheel?

In the courses there are 80% men, there is no better demonstration than today“, says to this assembly without women a road safety expert, Christian, who runs the course with a psychologist, Benoit.

Placed on the table, an easel displays the first names of Thomas, 26 years old, Thierry, 57 years old and even Hugo, 79 years old. They chat in a group before introducing themselves to each other, for a sort of introspection of each other’s behavior on the road.

Because of “small excesses” of speed, Thomas only has four points left on his license. This Parisian will lose six more after a positive alcohol test in the South-East, at his parents’ house. This course provided by ActiROUTE, an approved organization, allows him to save his precious sesame by recovering four points.

When a host asks him how he will get back from the aperitif in town, the industry consultant invokes the “wonderful app“Waze to monitor “if there is a police roadblock.”

Answer : “You fear control more than accidents…

In mainland France, 3,170 people lost their lives on the roads in 2023, according to provisional figures published Thursday by the National Interministerial Road Safety Observatory. In 2022, 84% of those presumed responsible for fatal accidents in mainland France were men.

Regardless of the mode of travel, they die much more than women: 62% of pedestrians killed, 73% of those killed in passenger vehicles and 92% in motorized two-wheelers are male.


Why such a huge difference? “One of the first explanations that may come to mind is the idea that men drive much more than women. But, in fact, this is not the case“, says Marie-Axelle Granié, director of research in social psychology of development at Gustave-Eiffel University, by telephone.

On average, men travel some 11,400 kilometers/year compared to around 10,800 km for women, in households with a vehicle (excluding motorized two-wheelers) in mainland France, according to the INSEE personal mobility survey, carried out in 2018-2019.

In the room, the facilitators show a graph of victims by gender. The discussion begins. So how to explain it?

Testosterone“, replies Thierry, 57 years old.

It’s patriarchal“, says another intern.

Research has shown that there is a link between testosterone levels and level of risk-taking, including sensation seeking.“, confirms Marie-Axelle Granié.

Issam, 26, is on his third internship in seven years on his license. At the break, he blurted out with a laugh: “the man is a little, let’s say crazy, unlike the woman who is perhaps a little more calm at the wheel“.

There is an association between risk-taking, courage, heroism, etc. and masculinity“, explains the researcher, who recalls the differences in socialization between men and women.

With his parents, Issam prefers to drive. “How do you feel when your father drives slowly?“, asks one of the hosts. “My dad, he drives like a princess“, says the young man. Laughter in the room.

Young men and masculinity

Excessive or inappropriate speed (30%) and alcohol (25%) are the leading factors in fatal accidents among men presumed responsible. Among women, it is inattention (20%) then speed (18%), according to figures for 2022, in mainland France.

Age also plays a major role: young people aged 18 to 24 are killed the most on the road. Among them, an overwhelming majority of men.

Young men use driving to prove their masculinity through risk-taking“, specifies Marie-Axelle Granié, who reminds us that not all French people are crazy drivers.

What we must not forget is that there are 80% (77.6%) of drivers who have their 12 points on their license“.