We constantly hear men say, “oh, she is a female. What does she know about driving/parking/reversing the car?
In male-dominated societies, the comments come thick and fast…
So I decided to look at the facts. Here’s what I found-
On my way to work by cab one day, I had the misfortune of being driven by a garrulous Mumbai cabbie. Swerving and speeding like he was on a Formula One track and not a pot-holed Mumbai road, he kept up a constant banter (sometimes glancing back to make his point), making me wonder if I would make it to my Hospital as a doctor or patient that day.
At one particularly challenging intersection, he locked horns with a woman who was driving HER version of an F-1 car. Furious honking and muttering ensued, until I intervened and requested my ‘knight-on-a-black-and-yellow-charger’ to back off. As his opponent sped off, the cabbie in a blaze of hurt male pride, spat out, “Yeh ladies-driver bhi na.” The grammatically erroneous statement in Hindi was loaded with enough innuendo about all drivers of the female sex.
Having won one skirmish with the cabbies’ temper, I refrained from comment, preferring instead to reach my destination with all my (physical and metaphorical) limbs intact.
TRUTH OR MYTH-
Reams have been written on the question ‘Are women really worse drivers than men?’
Depending upon whether we are born to, married to, squired around by or tangled with a lady-driver or (God forbid) actually taught one to drive, our opinion is likely to be biased in favor of, colored against, partial to, cautious of or vehemently opposed to ladies being in control of tons of easily-movable-automotive machinery.
For the purpose of this article, I shall borrow the Mumbaiya colloquial term for drivers of the female sex and refer to them as ‘lady-driver’ (is there such a thing as “gentleman-driver”?)
1.) THE DRIVING TEST-
According to the statistics released by the DSA (Driving Standards Agency, Britain.(DSA Practical Driving Test Centres Pass Rates – Postcodes A-M) the pass rate for men at driving tests was 3-5 percent higher than women. Women fail tests due to forgetting to signal or look in the mirror and also for not observing traffic signs or not parking correctly in reverse. (http://editorial.autos.msn.com/article.aspx?cp-documentid=788126.) But driving teachers are also the first to admit that women tend to put their foot on the brake more often, while men lean on the accelerator.
Studies indicate that women are spatially challenged and have problems co-ordinating movement with space (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19997928). The concept of the car being a mass of metal with finite three dimensions is a challenge for the female brain (at least mine). Perfectly good lady-drivers find it difficult to park their cars in small spaces (at least twenty seconds more than men and counting), turn smoothly at junctions or execute a smooth three-point U-turn (http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/12/111205102315.htm.). Interestingly, a lady-driver who is trying to park is helped with directions pantomimed by anxious by-standers (always male) and often by the male occupants of the car (daddy knows best!!) as well. Faced with a male-driver having the same problem, few of these good Samaritans will even raise a finger to help.
4.) INSURANCE-the real determinant
But car-insurers admit that once they learn, lady-drivers are safer drivers and cause less accidents.
Incidents of dents and fender-benders are commoner with lady-drivers, with the incidence of fatalities being less common. (http://www.statisticbrain.com/male-and-female-driving-statistics/) Men are rasher drivers, more likely to be driving under the influence or speeding and should an accident occur, men are twice as likely to finish the job they started and end up with very serious injuries, often fatal. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19997928 )
Parking badly or driving negligently are a result of lack of skill or confidence which are remedied by practice, but speeding or rash driving are traits of aggression, often deep-rooted.
REASONS FOR DISTRACTION-
There is no dearth of You-tube and Facebook videos of lady-drivers providing food for hilarity. One even ended with the wise-crack-“women-drivers are like stars; we can see them, but they cannot see us.”
In my opinion, if lady-drivers are preoccupied, it is generally for a good reason. Whenever I have to drive to work very early in the morning, I remember to give a wide berth to mothers, who are ferrying their children to school or some form of coaching-class. The small car with some minor dents, weaving desperately and jumping lanes in the traffic is generally a dead give-away. Their frenzy to reach the school-door before the bell rings is not unlike the batsman rushing to the crease with the bat outstretched, in the last over of a tensely played T-20 game of cricket. Having been there countless times, I can certainly empathize. But is the journey back home or for the school pick-up or even to office very different? The urgency may be missing, but it is replaced by preoccupation with a million other things.
Is the fridge stocked, is the school-project done, is the presentation for office ready, do I have my keys, does the neighbor have the spare key, what about the a leave application for PTA day, today’s dinner, tomorrrow’s breakfast, next week’s guests, is the maid sick, is my child sick, am I sick and so on….
While the men behind the wheel are probably thinking of their office, their cell-phone and only being distracted by a pretty girl crossing the road. http://www.allianz.com.au/car-insurance/driver-distraction-survey
On a more serious note, although our personal experiences, economic and social background, our cultural influences and our genetic make-up influence us greatly, it is unfair to comment on the skill of a person based on their sex. Driving skills of women are merely an example of this..
Published on Talking cranes.