Why Women Are Distracting . . . I Mean Distracted

South Carolina Distracted Driving
According to Distraction.gov, 3,328 people died in distraction-affected crashes in 2012 and an estimated 421,000 were injured. These statistics include accidents caused by males and females, young and old, those texting and those tuning the radio.

Since May is the month in which we celebrate the feminine role of motherhood, we’ve also given some thought about how – and why – women factor into the universal problem of distracted driving. They’re not unrelated.

Research shows that men and women drivers are, to some extent, distracted while driving by different things. The Colorado Department of Transportation did a study in 2013 that found women are distracted by the following, in rank order:

  • Cell Phone (talking)
  • Drinking/Eating
  • Cell Phone (texting)
  • Smoking
  • Reaching for Objects
  • Grooming (applying makeup/shaving, etc.)
  • Passengers (turning head, reaching)
  • Dashboard (tuning radio, adjusting heat/air)
  • Other
  • Pets (holding, attending, feeding, petting)
  • Children (holding, turning head, reaching)
  • Reading (newspaper, book, E-tablet, etc.)
  • Adjusting Clothing/Tie, etc.
  • Outside Distraction (accident, signage, etc.)
  • Headphones/Ear Buds

On the other hand, these are, in rank order, the things that distract male drivers:

  • Cell Phone (talking)
  • Drinking/Eating
  • Smoking
  • Cell Phone (texting)
  • Reaching for Objects
  • Passengers (turning head, reaching)
  • Dashboard (tuning radio, adjusting heat/air)
  • Other
  • Grooming (applying makeup/shaving, etc.)
  • Pets (holding, attending, feeding, petting)
  • Outside Distraction (accident, signage, etc.)
  • Adjusting Clothing/Tie, etc.
  • Reading (newspaper, book, E-tablet, etc.)
  • Headphones/Ear Buds
  • Children (holding, turning head, reaching)

You’ll notice that, for the most part, the ranking of distractability for each activity is about the same for the sexes, with the items moving up or down the list by just one position. However, there are a few interesting differences: (1) Women do more grooming in the car; (2) Women are way more often distracted by children in the car; and (3) Women are more concerned with things inside the car than outside the car.

Now here’s where motherhood comes in. Why is it that women, at least some of them, have to put their makeup on in the car? Because they were busy fixing breakfast, dressing children, preparing lunchboxes, writing notes, organizing backpacks, shepherding kids out the door, often while trying to get to work on time themselves. According to the Department of Labor, the percentage of married women who hold a job and whose youngest child is between ages six and eighteen rose from 49.2% in 1970 to 74.7% in 1990. For mothers of younger children (under six years old), the increase was even more dramatic, rising from 30.3% in 1970 to 58.4% in 1990. That being said, grooming while driving endangers Mom AND her children AND everyone else on the road.

Women are distracted by children in the car. The Colorado study didn’t say so specifically, but I suspect there are more chauffeur-moms out there than chauffeur-dads. According to the CDC, only 13% of children walk to school today compared with 66% in 1970. And who’s doing most of that transporting? Drive by a school in the morning and see who’s behind the wheel in those long lines of SUVs. Yes, there will be some dads, but they’re outnumbered by moms, some of whom are putting on their makeup.

The last area of difference – being distracted by things inside rather than outside – is open to interpretation, but here’s mine: Women are nesters. They’re hardwired to create a safe and welcoming environment for their brood, and to focus their energy on what’s going on inside it. Researchers from McMaster University in Ontario say nesting is “an adaptive behavior stemming from humans’ evolutionary past.” My guess, admittedly an uneducated one, is that moms carry that instinct out of the house and into the car, constantly being aware of the activities and motions and emotions of their passengers.

Here’s the take-away, though: Don’t be a distracted driver. Whether you’re a mom or a dad, a parent or not, a teenager or a senior – don’t be in such a hurry that you endanger yourself and others by taking your attention from the road and failing in your responsibility to be a safe driver.

At the Louthian Law Firm, we help people who were in vehicle accidents caused by distracted drivers. If we can assist you, call (803) 454-1200.