Juliet Dunlop: Insurance directive worth raging against

Juliet Dunlop
Juliet Dunlop
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VAN drivers, lorry drivers, dawdlers and tailgaters – they all drive me mad and in no particular order. Take this week: I have tangled with White Van Man any number of times; slammed on the brakes as a lorry suddenly veered into my path on a roundabout; and been challenged by an ageing boy-racer, late at night on a desolate M8.

Over the years I’ve been: driven into by a stolen van; smashed into by an uninsured driver; and had two wing mirrors sheared clean off by a taxi and a motorbike (they were all driven by men).

And it’s not as if I’m a careless or inconsiderate driver – ten years spent fuming in London traffic must have taught me something about patience – but, increasingly, it seems that other drivers are not only rude, some are downright dangerous. Yes, even in Edinburgh. And no, before you write me off as some terrible woman driver who must wage war on her fellow motorists, let me reassure you, I am not and I don’t. Hell, I can even parallel park.

In fact, male readers you’ve been warned – it’s time to bin any lingering prejudices you may still harbour about women drivers weaving around looking dazed and confused. That would be just a tiny bit rich. Especially, when all the statistics suggest that young males – yes, you White Van Man, and you too testosterone-fuelled boy racer – are the real danger. That’s the main reason men pay a whopping 40 per cent more than women for car insurance until they hit 40. In fact, according to the AA, the typical insurance premium for a male in his early twenties is now £3,000. For a female, it’s just over £2,000. It says a lot about who the safest drivers really are.

That’s what makes next month’s insurance clampdown so hard to take. From 21 December, new European Union legislation means insurers will be banned from taking gender into consideration when setting premiums. And before you tell me, in your best Michael Winner voice, to “calm down, dear…” women could be in for a shock. Under the new equality rules they could see their premiums rise on average by £300, while for younger women the increase could be a hefty £2,000. Young male drivers on the other hand, who don’t forget are still ten times more likely to be killed or injured, will see their premiums fall. So, good news for all those 19-year-old men out there: they can finally insure that white Fiesta with the chimney-sized exhaust.

Worryingly, the change could actually see women priced off the road. According to research highlighted by The Scotsman, over a third of female drivers will be forced to cut their living costs in order to meet the soaring cost of their insurance, while almost a quarter may have to give up their car altogether. So, all those risk-averse, careful female drivers out there will be subsidising young, male risk-takers who can barely see above the steering wheel of the aforementioned white Fiesta. They’ll be undertaking you faster than you can say Top Gear and the nearest woman will have to pick up the tab.

So, it seems whether we like it or not, we are entering a unisex era. Male and female drivers will be treated equally. The loophole, which allowed insurers to reward females for their caution, has been closed. But in a world where women still earn less than men, are more likely to ferry children and elderly parents around, and feel less safe on public transport late at night, it is not good news.

And while increasing numbers of young women may be forced to give up on the freedom, independence and work opportunities a car makes possible, fewer men will have to do so.

It’s a pity that legislation designed to make men and women more equal will have the opposite effect. And, as if being priced off the road wasn’t bad enough, I should also point out that the new EU gender directive affects all insurance products, not just car insurance.

Again, it is women who stand to lose the most. No wonder female road rage is on the rise.