Who are the better drivers, men or women?

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- The debate over whether men or women are better drivers is a never-ending one, it probably rages in your own home.

To help illuminate that discussion, Action News partnered with Crosstown, non-profit a data journalism organization affiliated with the University of Southern California. Our teams poured over data from the California Highway Patrol's Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System between 2016 and 2018. Information collected from Fresno, Madera, Merced, Tulare, Kings and Mariposa counties showed men caused 59% of the accidents. Women were responsible for 38% of the crashes. In the remaining 3% of cases, the no sex was identified for the responsible party.

The accidents caused by men tended to be worse too, with someone dying in 3.2%, compared to 1.9% of the crashes caused by women.

We brought that data to Karen and Jon Lanier, both are driving instructors and together they run the Traffic Depot driving school in Clovis as well as other valley cities.

Karen said she wasn't surprised, "The females tend to be more hesitant, a little more cautious, where the guys are a little more care-free ."

The Laniers offer a unique perspective on how young men and women develop as drivers.

"Our third lesson drivers, the girls are way in control," said Jon. "The third lesson drives with guys, they're still doing bad habits. They're not looking ahead in the road."

Jon has noticed female drivers check their mirrors more often. He says they also pay more attention to what's happening on the road, "They're consistently looking around. They do not like things around them and that's great because it creates this bubble protection."

Granted, they only see a small sample of young drivers each year. As we drove around Central California working on this story, we spotted women on their phone as well as eating inside their vehicle.

Karen believes women are better equipped than men to do that, "Because they're used to multi-tasking with kids, work and all that."

But the guys we spoke to aren't buying that.

"We're more cautious," said Simon Morales of Sanger. "We're more aware of everything that's going on."

The data also showed out of every 1,000 accidents in Central California between 2016 and 2018, 19 of them were fatal.

CHP officer Kris Moreno identified the primary collision factors for us, "Speeding, unsafe lane changes, following too closely, texting or any distracted driving."

Moreno says someone on a phone caused the accident 28% of the time.

The data also shows that we have more men than women who drive in California, about 482,000 more. That sounds like a lot until you consider there are 27 million drivers in the state. The difference in number of male and female drivers is less than 2%.

Here's one more thing to consider, Jon Lanier says families typically pay more to insure 16-year-old boys than they do 16-year-old girls.

The insurance companies use historical data to make those decisions, and the difference is significant.

"It was a 10-12% difference higher for the males," said Jon.

So, it appears men need to be a little more careful on the road.

A conclusion that some men may find difficult to accept, "I think it depends on the person, said Dominique Williams. "I'm a better driver but my mom is a better driver than me."

The key is to never be driven to distraction.
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