- Women drivers now outnumber men for the first time in automotive history, according to the driver's license statistics chronicled in a study by the University of Michigan's Transportation Research Institute.
- The trend is expected to have significant implications on everything from car design to highway fatality rates.
- The researchers say that women are more likely than men to purchase smaller, more fuel-efficient cars and to drive less.
ANN ARBOR, Michigan — Women drivers now outnumber men for the first time in automotive history, according to the driver's license statistics chronicled in a study by the University of Michigan's Transportation Research Institute.
This demographic shift on the nation's roadways not only portends a new approach by the auto industry to market and sell cars, but may have safety and economic implications as well.
"The changing gender demographics will have major implications on the extent and nature of vehicle demand, energy consumption and road safety," said Michael Sivak, a University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute professor and colleague Brandon Schoettle in a statement on the institute's Web site.
"Women are more likely than men to purchase smaller, safer and more fuel-efficient cars; to drive less, and to have a lower fatality rate per distance driven."
The study chronicled gender trends in driver's licenses between 1995 and 2010.
During those 15 years, the share of men ages 25 to 29 years old with driver's licenses dropped 10.6 percent. The share of women of the same age with driver's licenses declined by about half that amount, 4.7 percent.
That's a far cry from the 1950s, when only about half of adult women could get behind a wheel.
Modern times helped close the gap. By 1995, men with driver's licenses outnumbered women, 89.2 million to 87.4 million. By 2010, 105.7 million women had licenses, compared with 104.3 million men.
The researchers say that the changing demographics when it comes to drivers may have something to do with increased Internet usage.
Writing in the journal Traffic Injury Prevention, Sivak and Schoettle said: "We found that the percentage of young drivers was inversely related to the availability of the Internet. Consequently, we postulated that virtual contact (through electronic means) reduces the need for actual contact."
Edmunds says: Maybe someday the sports advertising budget for car companies will refocus to target women's interests instead.