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Are Men Twice as Likely to Speed as Women?

On Thursday 12th November, The Telegraph published an article [‘Men twice as likely to get caught speeding as women’]. Whilst the Freedom of Information figures used in the article do indeed reveal that that 1,625,211 men have speeding points on their licence compared to only 721,156 women, this doesn’t really tell the whole story.

Forgetting [Speed Awareness Course] attendance (where those caught speeding at certain thresholds can attend an educational course instead of receiving points on their licence), The Telegraph have not taken into account time spent on the road in order to be caught speeding. If women drive significantly less then is it any surprise that they get caught speeding less often?

In December 2012, the RAC Foundation published a [comprehensive report] examining how Britons use the transport network, exploring mode, mileage and travel patterns by a variety of measures. Using their mileage and licence figures for men and women and taking into account that speeding points remain on a licence for 3 years, we have calculated that women get points for speeding for every 140,420 miles driven compared to every 141,506 miles for men.

So, the headline really should be: ‘Men and women get caught at roughly the same rates, given how many men and women have licences and how much mileage men and women drive’. Not quite as catchy as what The Telegraph went with!

The moral of this story is always be wary of data that doesn't take into account exposure when trying to explain differences in patterns.  It's not always possible to find a good denominator to calculate a rate so think carefully about the likely influencing factors on your trend before publishing (in a national newspaper).