ARSRPE Conference Paper Database

The importance of cars and driving to adolescent males: vehicle theft, traffic offences and gender

Williams, Clive, Sheehan, Mary (Peer reviewed)

Driver Psychology / Human Factors


Despite a considerable body of evidence detailing the overwhelming ?maleness? of traffic offence behaviour and clear sex differences in the risky road use behaviour of young drivers, traffic psychology has paid scant attention to the issue of gender and the relationship between young men, cars and gender identity.  Motor vehicle theft is a major juvenile offence both nationally and internationally and a particular example of a male dominated road use behaviour.  Statistics suggest vehicle theft is primarily conducted by 16 year old males and is associated with approximately 40 fatalities per year nationally.  This paper reports on two studies examining vehicle theft offenders, driving and gender identity.  Study One (N = 4,529), a longitudinal study, examined the prevalence of vehicle theft in a representative adolescent cohort and their subsequent novice driver offence history.  Results indicated that adolescent males were more likely than adolescent females to report vehicle theft. Adolescent males were also more likely to incur Drink Driving and Dangerous Driving offences as novice drivers.  Study Two compared the gender identities of adolescent offenders? (N = 122) and non-offenders (N = 155).  A new scale, the Doing Masculinity Composite Scale was developed to identify the specific behaviours adolescent males perceived as necessary to ?do masculinity?.  Overall adolescent male offenders and non-offenders were similar in the behaviours they endorsed as ?doing masculinity?.  Importantly both groups of adolescent males endorsed having a car and being able to drive as core masculine defining behaviours. Results indicate that adolescent males who engage in vehicle theft continue their risky driving behaviour into the novice driver period.  It is also suggested that cars and driving hold particular importance to young males just about to enter the driving system.  It is suggested that the gendered associations between adolescent males and cars is an overlooked area in relation to licensure and road safety education.