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Do driving instructors find genders different to teach?


In light of recent research which suggests that women are much more likely to want to improve their driving skills, Izzy from miDrive.com takes a look at whether or not men and women are treated in the same way and require the same teaching techniques when learning to drive.

The AA have recently revealed how – when they offered 2,000 free driving lessons to already qualified drivers – only 22% of those who signed up were male. Does this suggest that men are inherently more confident than women when it comes to driving, or does it just mean they’re unwilling to improve?

Here we look at whether or not gender affects the way we learn, and ask a qualified driving instructor about his own experience of teaching both men and women.

Practical learners vs listeners

We may have already (sort of) dispelled the myth that men are better drivers than women, but the fact is that they tend to pass in fewer hours than women, suggesting that they’re more hands on in the driver’s seat.

Bernie Williams, a driving instructor at Kenley Driving School, draws upon his own experience:

“Guys normally have more natural ability when it comes to things such as manoeuvres as in bay parking, reversing and so on.”

But don’t worry girls, he also adds that girls tend to be better listeners and more patient whilst learning. Interestingly, Bernie also told us that – despite the boys skills at manoeuvres – his pass rate generally favours females.

Girl L plate1

This seems to support the idea that boys are more practical when it comes to driving, whilst the girls tend to be more focused on thinking through the task at hand.

It’s also worth noting that women have a higher pass rate for the theory test, whilst males have a higher pass rate for the practical test.

Not only does this add some weight to the idea that men are practical learners whilst women are more methodical, but it also suggests that they need to be taught in slightly different ways.

Unconfident vs over-confident

Females, broadly speaking, tend to be more wary when they get the behind the wheel, and, therefore, need more encouragement. Males, on the other hand, might be a bit too eager, and might even need to be reigned in a bit. Each approach has its own set of pros and cons.

Being wary, for example, means you’re more likely to take instruction from the professional instructor, but it also means that your lack of confidence could hold you back on the practical side of things. Being over-confident, however, might lead to the learner not taking the correct instruction or trying to progress beyond their current skill set. On the other hand, confidence can help a learner progress much more quickly in their lessons, as they’re not afraid to try new things like manoeuvres, driving at night or driving on a dual carriageway.

Turning the tables – male and female stereotypes

If we turn the question around, we can look at the reasons behind why some learners specifically choose a male or female driving instructor.

Many learners feel more comfortable learning with a female instructor, especially if they’re nervous about taking to the road. This might be due to females being seen as naturally more gentle and patient, but it’s also worth noting that many males, and, specifically, male driving instructors, also have these traits!

Likewise, learners who want to get straight to the point and learn quickly might feel that a male driving instructor is the best option. Again, many female driving instructors also have the traits necessary to get you on the road quickly.

Stereotypes, therefore, might be affecting the way we think about learning to drive before we’ve even reached the age of 17. As we saw when it came to deciding whether men or women were the best drivers, it’s down to every individual case.

Driving instructors have to tailor their teaching techniques to the individual, whether they’re male or female. Giving Bernie the final word here, he backs up this point, saying:

“At the end of the day, all pupils have different abilities. I have no preference whatsoever. They all pass their test in the end.”

Why do more men pass the driving test first time?

The age old stereotype that men are better drivers than women is one we’ve been trying to quash for years, but there’s no denying the driving test statistics are against us. Whether it’s sheer competitive drive, testosterone or purely luck, boys are more likely to pass their driving test first time than girls.

In this article from miDrive.com we take a look at why this might be and whether or not passing the test first time really means that you’re a better driver.

The facts

Last year’s statistics from the Driving Standards Agency (DSA) show pass rates to be higher for men than women at almost every test centre in England, Scotland and Wales. Whilst the 2012 national pass rate for males, through April to September, was 50.8%, the national pass rate for females during the same time period was 44.2%.

Even more tellingly, 50.8% of males taking their test, in the UK between 2011-2012 passed their driving test first time, whilst only 44.3% females achieved the same feat.


We all know that nerves make us do silly things, and the driving test is no exception. Whether it’s testosterone, adrenaline, or an indestructible competitive streak, nerves – generally speaking – appear to affect women more than men. When nerves come into the equation, it’s very easy to allow them to take over, and that’s when mistakes can happen.

Unfortunately, pressure is an intrinsic part of the driving test. There’s no avoiding it, and coping with it can be a challenge. Finding the right balance of determination and a cool-head is something which both sexes struggle with on the driving test, but research tells us that men deal with pressure with a show of strength; facing up to challenges. Women, on the other hand, are more methodical.

Who takes more lessons?

Statistics show that men take fewer driving lessons than women, but this doesn’t necessarily make them better drivers. We all learn in our own time, and depending on how anxious a learner is when they get behind the wheel, they might have more personal hurdles to overcome.

The amount of lessons a learner driver takes also depends upon their personal circumstances. Whilst a 17 year old might have school or college to fit lessons around, a parent might struggle to fit them in around childcare arrangements. The bigger the gaps between each driving lesson, the longer you will take to pass, regardless of your on-road ability.

So, who are the better drivers?

There’s always going to be cases for both sides, but statistics point to females as safer motorists. As we all know, up until recently, young men were paying more for their insurance because of these figures, despite them being more likely to pass their test first time.

Interestingly, statistics also show that women are more likely to pass their theory test, with 63.74% of females passing in 2011/12, compared to a pass rate of 58.09% for males in the same time period. This not only shows that females’ mental attitudes to driving and knowledge of the Highway Code edges out the men’s, but it also demonstrates that they work well under a different kind of pressure. Although the practical test is hands on, the theory test tests foresight and mental processes.

It’s impossible to single out every driver’s on-road ability based on their gender, but it’s also important to note that whether a driver passed their test first time or not isn’t a good way to gauge it either. Whether men are better drivers than women is a debate which is sure to rumble on for years to come, but we hope we’ve dispelled some driving test gender myths here!

Guest blog

This guest post was written and researched by Isabelle Guarella.

Isabelle is a writer for miDrive.com; a site which helps learner drivers to find and compare local driving instructors.