More women in Missouri are now licensed drivers than men.
Missouri is in step with a national drivers’ trend that shows the number of women with a driver’s license now exceeds licensed males.
Since the 1950s, when only about half of adult women had driver’s licenses, the gap between male and female drivers has been narrowing. By 2010, 105.7 million women had licenses, compared with 104.3 million men.
“Is it because more women are driving, or more men are having their licenses taken away?” chuckled HLGU student Lindsay Kizer of Noblesville, Ind., when asked about the gender driving swing.
“With more and more women that are working now I would imagine it (number of women drivers) will increase even more,” said Gary Bush of Hannibal.
The difference in Missouri between licensed male and female drivers is tighter than it is nationally.
“It’s pretty close, but there are more women with driver’s licenses than men. It’s about 51 to 49 percent,” said Ted Farnen of the Department of Revenue.
As of Nov. 3, 2,193,015 Show-Me State women held an unexpired driver’s license compared to 2,108,931 men. The difference is far more dramatic when the number of Missourians holding the most common operator’s license, Class F, is compared. According to data from the Missouri Department of Revenue Information Systems Bureau, on Nov. 3 2,088,031 females held a Class F license, which exceeded the number of men by 505,202.
“Commercial licenses are still very male dominated. But the general operating licenses, that’s where women take the lead,” said Farnen.
Farnen could not say how long women drivers in Missouri have been in the driver’s seat when it comes to holding a motor vehicle license.
“This switch might have happened back in 2001 or 1998, or something like that. And with the numbers that close it may have been a situation where it went over at one point, like in 1993, and then went back to men, and back and forth,” he said.
According to Joann Failor of Hannibal, having more women behind the wheel makes highways safer.
“Women are just better drivers,” she laughed. “I’m a very good driver and I just think that the women outdo the men on it.”
One person not disputing Failor’s assertion is Bush.
“I don’t have a problem with women drivers,” he said.
According to a study by the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute, between 1995 and 2010 the share of men ages 25 to 29 years old with driver’s licenses dropped 10.6 percent. The share of women of the same age with driver’s licenses declined by about half that amount, 4.7 percent.
“A lot of people are walking more and trying to bike more,” said Kizer, regarding the decline in younger drivers. “Or are they just too lazy (to get a driver’s license)?”
Kizer couldn’t envision life without her driver’s license.
“It’s my freedom to do whatever I want,” she said, noting that being an out-of-state student, her license serves as an important ID source.
According to the study, in 1995 men with driver’s licenses outnumbered women in every age group except those over 70. By 2010, women outnumbered men among drivers ages 45 and older and between ages 25 and 29 years old. The share of older women hanging onto their driver’s licenses has also increased.
Count Failor, who has been driving around 45 years, among those who want to hang onto her driver’s license for as long as she can.
“I love driving. I want to go where I want to go, when I want to go there and I don’t want to depend on anybody to take me,” she said. “I could rely on my kids, but I’d rather not. If I had to, they’d take me where I had to go, but they all work and they’ve got their families.”
Bush, who is approaching 70 years old, says many older people equate having a driver’s license with independence.
“When you get older like we are and have medical problems, you have to be able to get to the hospital or medical doctors right away, so it’s very necessary,” he said.
That said, Bush recognizes there may come a time when he may not be able to drive.
“I know there’s going to be a time when, if I live that long, I’ll probably have to have my grand kids take me somewhere,” he said. “I’m not worried about it. I’d rather give up my license than be a danger to somebody on the road.”
(The Associated Press contributed to this story.)