Melanie Bien: Sorry, girls, cheaper car cover isn't your right
Sunday 26 September 2004
The cabbie who dropped me home the other night was furious at having to slow down to a crawl behind a Nissan Micra, whose driver clearly didn't know the area.
Hounded by some blasts on the horn from my taxi, the lost driver finally got the message and pulled over to the side of the road, without indicating. "Bloody women drivers," shouted my cabbie as he pulled out to pass the car.
Before I opened my mouth to remonstrate, I thought I'd better check inside the car first. And sure enough, behind the wheel of the Micra was a woman.
But while the cabbie and thousands like him think women are bad drivers, statistically this isn't the case. Government figures reveal that men commit 88 per cent of all motoring offences and are involved in 97 per cent of dangerous driving cases.
Yet the European Commission intends to ban the use of gender in calculating premiums - not just for motor insurance but life cover and annuities. The proposed European Union directive on gender equality - or "equalisation", as it's now to be called - will be discussed in Brussels a week tomorrow.
Much has been said on the subject, with female-only motor insurers such as Diamond and First Alternative Woman arguing that premiums will rise for women if these proposals become law. They argue that they deserve to get cheaper insurance premiums than men because they are lower risk.
Clearly they wouldn't be offering lower premiums to women if this wasn't the case, because it would be bad for business. However, it's still a sweeping generalisation. There are plenty of bad women drivers out there, just as there are quite a few not-so-good male drivers.
I am all for equality but there is a danger of being too simplistic. My father is an excellent driver, who has never so much as got a speeding ticket in nearly 40 years of motoring. And to charge him higher motor premiums than a woman of the same age, with the same driving record, simply because he is male seems outrageous.
Insurance premiums should be calculated according to risk: the greater the likelihood of you crashing your car, speeding or driving badly, the more you should pay.
Other factors come into play which are surely more important than gender, such as your age and experience, the number of years' no-claims bonus you have and the size of your car's engine. Where you park at night, your job and how many miles you travel in a year are also far more relevant.
Gender, for me, comes at the end of a long list of considerations. I would be more worried if the EC decided it was going to remove age discrimination; saying that someone with 30 years' driving experience should pay the same premium as someone who passed their test yesterday is clearly ludicrous.
But where do you draw the line? Someone in their seventies may have spent more years behind the wheel but could present a higher risk than a newly qualified driver if their eyesight were failing or their reactions had slowed down.
Insurance premiums must be calculated on a case-by-case basis. The same is true when it comes to annuities: women traditionally get poorer rates than men because they tend to live longer. Under the EC proposals, this distinction would be removed, which may mean better annuity rates for women (or not, if insurers simply lower male rates to achieve parity).
Women shouldn't automatically get poorer annuity rates than men. How long you are going to live is a personal thing: there is no guarantee that someone who smokes 50 cigarettes a day, is obese and takes no exercise will live longer than a fit and healthy person of the same age, simply because the former is a woman and the latter a man. Indeed, everything points to the probability that an unhealthy woman wouldn't live longer than a man who looked after himself.
Insurers must look at the bigger picture, evaluating everyone with pinpoint accuracy using the same criteria. A whole host of factors need to be considered, rather than relying on sweeping generalisations on the basis of whether we happen to be male or female.
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
Shock poll shows voters believe Ukip is to the left of the Tories
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
New era of cheap oil 'will destroy green revolution'
Ukip founder Alan Sked and Nigel Farage 'begged Enoch Powell to stand as a candidate'
Ukip candidate jokes about 'shooting peasants' in racist and homophobic rant
iJobs Money & Business
£32000 - £35000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Services Manage...
£Neg. (DOE) + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: A Finance Account Manager with...
£40000 - £470000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: Java Developer / J2EE Devel...
£45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: An exciting opportunity h...
Day In a Page
A three-bedroom villa with self-contained flat, minutes from Lake Windermere
A deceptively spacious, beautifully presented Georgian home with 3000sq ft of living space and five reception rooms
A five-bedroom Victorian home with four receptions, superb gardens and paddock in Pembury
An eight-bedroom house on the south side of the The Green with cinema, wine cellars and summer house
This 17th century beauty is full of rustic cosiness, while the detached home office means you can also run a business
This five-bedroom red-brick beauty overlooks the village green and sits in just under two acres of land
Four exclusive apartments in a Grade II-listed former medical school with 2,275 sq ft of living space and 18ft ceilings
A five-bedroom terraced house on the popular Peterborough Estate, ideally located for both Eel Brook Common and South Park
A state-of-the-art farm-building conversion on the former Cliveden Estate, with 11,420sq ft of internal space, cinema and wine cellar
A three-bedroom, 15th-century cottage with original features in the picturesque village of Sissinghurst
A six-bedroom terraced house with large south-facing roof terrace, cinema room and wine cellar
A new seven-bedroom home built in Queen Anne-style with swimming pool and parkland views in Mortimer
A listed, four-bedroom farmhouse in the rural hamlet of Rushall with detached barn, four acres of gardens and paddocks
A first-floor flat with two bedrooms, a spacious reception room and communal grounds in a leafy part of London
A three-bedroom flat with a spacious rootop terrace and balcony, accessed from a private gated courtyard
A Grade II-listed pile with six bedrooms, stables and 39 acres of grounds in Standlake
A two-bedroom flat with boutique hotel-style interiors, close to the foodie haunt of West End Lane
A two-bedroom flat in a beautiful old vicarage, with many original features, close to the city centre
A three-bedroom 16th-century home with an aga kitchen, private gardens and heated outdoor pool, in Hadleigh
A three-bedrom home in sought-after Queen's Gate Mews, with Italian marble-finished bathrooms
Surrounded by glorious countryside in the village of Udimore, sits this impressive four-kiln oast and barn conversion
A five-bedroom house in the picturesque village of Kettlewell, north Yorkshire
An 18th-century former coaching inn with original staircase, open fireplaces and beams throughout
A Grade II-listed Georgian town house with three bedrooms and a south-facing courtyard, near Arundel Castle
Feel on top of the world at this über chic penthouse on the 37th floor of one of Europe’s tallest blocks.
A Grade II-listed Victorian villa with six bedrooms and two further cottages, all with spectacular sea views
A grade II-listed, Georgian cottage with mature 50ft garden, perfect for summer entertaining
A magnificent Georgian pile with turrets, seven bedrooms, a heated pool and four acres of gardens
Fairoak Farm has five bedroom suites, gym, outdoor swimming pool and golf course
Chic two-bedroom river-fronted flat with a private lift that delivers you directly to your home
A spectacular seven-bedroom Tudor pile, once owned by Henry VIII, with 18 acres of land
A seven-bedroom Georgian property previously used as a picturesque wedding venue
A split-level flat in a church conversion with two en suite bedrooms and 1,200sq ft of living space
A three-bedroom bungalow situated behind an impressive stone wall, £645,000
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads
Chapel House is a former vicarage with nine bedrooms in the beautiful Upper Wye Valley
A five-bedroom B&B and separate owner's accomodation with potential for conversion
Enjoy summer by the Thames in this two double-bedroom converted warehouse in Rotherhithe village
A one-bedroom, luxury apartment with private gym and concierge service in Moorgate
A four-bedroom house in Hermitage Gardens with three reception rooms and landscaped gardens