Extreme speeding: why are men more likely to drive very fast?

Edmonton police say men make up the majority of the worst speeders in the city — accounting for 90 per cent of the drivers caught going at least 50 km/h over the speed limit.

Male drivers made up 90 per cent of people ticketed for surpassing speed limit by more than 50 km/h

The psychology of speeding: why are more men in the fast lane?

8 years ago
Duration 5:56
Featured VideoU of A professor Peter Hurd explains why 90 per cent of drivers caught going 50 km/h or more above the speed limit are men.

It's not surprising Edmonton police say men make up the majority of the worst speeders in the city, a psychology expert says.

While police say men account for 90 per cent of speeding drivers caught travelling at least 50 km/h over the speed limit, the proportion of women is more surprising, says Peter Hurd, a psychology professor and associate chair in the department of psychology at the University of Alberta.

"It surprises me that the proportion of women is that high," Hurd said.

As a general rule, men tend to be more competitive with each other than women do, he said.

On the road, driving much faster than everyone else can be a way for drivers to rebel and show off — or, in psychology parlance, to "exert perceived dominance." The physical danger that comes with high speeds also ups the ante, he suggested.

"When males do things that are dangerous generally they're either doing it to … attract females or to impress other males," he said.

"In this case, it's hard to believe this is really attracting a mate, so we can assume it's some kind of self-esteem boosting practise for adulthood or showing off to other males."

But that need for speed is not a trait shared by everyone, he added.

"These people seem to be a bit more different from the rest of us," Hurd said. "This is voluntary risk-taking — it's a personality trait some people seem to be disposed towards."

There is some evidence that suggests at least some of the drive to go fast is biological. Prenatal testosterone exposure or frontal lobe development can both affect basic personality functions, Hurd explained.

There is a slight correlation between people likely to speed and those likely to drink. But speeding drivers typically show no higher odds of participating in other risky behaviours like gambling or unsafe sex, Hurd said.

Age also plays a factor. Police numbers show younger drivers — those between 15 and 35 — make up 89 per cent of extreme speeders.

Hurd interprets that by saying speeding is still a novel way to rebel. However, as we age, we tend to move away from risky behaviour, he noted.

By the numbers

On Aug. 21, Edmonton police provided the following information about drivers caught going at extreme speeds over the past two years:

Mandatory court speeding tickets: People charged by gender

Gender 2014 2015 (So far)
Female 7.7% 9.3%
Male 92.3% 90.7%
Total 100.00% 100.00%

Mandatory court speeding tickets: People charged by age

Age Group 2014 2015 (So far)
15 - 24 years 39.0% 34.9%
25 - 35 years 34.2% 36.7%
36 - 44 years 16.2% 18.9%
45 - 54 years 7.5% 6.0%
55 - 64 years 2.3% 2.8%
65 - 74 years 0.8% 0.4%
75 years and older 0.0% 0.0%
Not Available 0.0% 0.4%
Total 100.00% 100.00%