Oct. 26, 2010 -- The old stereotype might be true: Men really don't like to ask for directions and are willing to circle around aimlessly forever, or at least longer than women.
The average male drives an extra 276 miles every year as a result of being lost -- the equivalent to a journey from Cincinnati to Nashville -- compared to 256 miles for women, according to a study by British car insurance company Sheila's Wheels.
More than one out of four men -- 26 percent -- wait at least half an hour before asking for directions, with a stubborn 12 percent refusing to ask a stranger for help at all.
No wonder they rack up all those extra miles.
"Our research not only reveals that men aren't quite as confident behind the wheel as they make out when it comes to navigation but also that women are in control when it comes to modern motoring," noted Jacky Brown of Sheilas' Wheels.
The study didn't address which gender is more likely to get lost; just which sex is more likely to ask for directions.
But it's not just wasted time. Sheila's Wheels estimated the cost of gas used by each man driving around lost and reluctant to ask for help could add up to thousands of dollars over a lifetime.
"Wow, this reminds me of the song by [the Village People], 'Macho Man,'" said Anne Fleming, of Women-Drivers.com, a site that reviews female-friendly car dealerships. "With more stay-at-home dads today, has much really changed as it relates to machismo in the past 40 years?"
For women, it's almost the exact opposite. Almost three-quarters of women -- 74 percent -- have no qualms about asking for directions, with 37 percent admitting to pulling over as soon as they realize they are lost, compared to just 30 percent of men.
"Men are more confident and that sometime sense of blind confidence can get in the way of asking for assistance, like they will appear needy when they so ask," Fleming said. "Women are more quick to overrun their own confidence and let intuition carry the day. The fun of the hunt or gamesmanship of it appeals less to her."
Which Gender Gets Lost More?
According to the research, more than a third of motorists would rather ask a woman than a man for directions. Perhaps that is wise given that 41 percent of men have pretended they knew where they were going when actually lost, compared to a more trustworthy 26 percent of women.
"It's disappointing to hear that British men are so directionally-challenged," said Robert Sinclair, a spokesman for AAA in New York. "With gasoline so expensive across the pond, and driving around lost contributing to extra air pollution, we think that men and women need to swallow their pride and consult route-planning software."
Sinclair noted that AAA will plan out routes for travelers. He suggested getting AAA TripTiks even if you have a satellite navigation device, just in case the machine suffers a lapse.
In fact, the research revealed that people older than 55 generally have the best sense of direction, getting lost just 26 times a year, on average. That's better than the satellite-navigation generation -- motorists younger than 25 got lost, on average, 37 times a year.
Motorists in their mid-30s are more likely to stop and ask for directions -- taking less than 15 minutes to pull over, on average, compared to those younger than 25, who take more than 22 minutes to ask for help.
"With GPS now, there's no excuse for anyone to ever get lost," said George Hobica, president of airfarewatchdog.com. "But while men are often chastised for not asking for directions, I can't count the number of times I've stopped and been told that by my would-be guide that he wasn't from these parts and had no idea how to get where I was going; that, or I was given the wrong directions.
"Of course," he said, "that's better than being told, as in the old Bert and I joke: 'Come to think of it, you can't get there from here!'"