S/He Says

Charl Laubscher and Rebecca Kamm bring their 2- cents' worth to the table.

Modern Musings: Why do female drivers get a bad rap?

81 comments
A bit of email banter has sparked this week's talk on the topic of female drivers. Are women worse behind the wheel? Why do they cop such a bad rap? Charl thinks ladies are a bit of a hazard, while Rebecca says ladies have the stats to squash this stereotype. Join the banter below.

Are women worse drivers than men?Photo / Thinkstock
Are women worse drivers than men?Photo / Thinkstock

Charl on female drivers:

Of course I think that women can't drive properly. I think most men do.

It's a thought that sits at the back of my mind every time it's a woman's turn to take the wheel. A thought that then usually jumps to the front of my mouth in one of two ways: either I (rather chivalrously) offer to do the driving, or I (less chivalrously) make fun of her motorskills until she gives me the keys.

Either way, if I'm not driving, I'm thinking I probably should be. I'm expecting to see her crash into something.

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

Naturally, the statistics don't validate this sexist hunch. Studies into the broad question "are men better drivers than women?" produce inconclusive answers in disparate minutiae: men are involved in fewer crashes per kilometer they drive/women are less likely to drive drunk; men have better depth perception/women don't speed so much.

So it all roughly balances out, and I'm no more likely to get into a crash whether it's a gal or a guy behind the wheel. (Unless we're talking about teenage guys. Which we're not.)

And yet here I am, reaching to take the keys off her.

Which makes me think about where we crash, and what we crash into.

Women - less focused, driving slower - are statistically more likely to do the cringey stuff: get into fender-benders, park into something or hit someone at an intersection (girl-on-girl, by the way, is the most likely combo by far). The kind of stuff insurance commercial are made of.

Men, while avoiding embarrassing prangs, instead drive too fast - maybe too drunk - into and off things. We make fewer mistakes, but we make much bigger ones, too. You ever see women driving in those ALAC ads? Course not. They're not the ones doing the real damage.

So I guess it makes sense that I see more women bumping into stuff. Because if it's a guy crashing me into something, it's less likely we'll both be around to laugh at him.

Rebecca on female drivers:

Where to start with this one. Maybe here, here, or here: each of which links to thorough research proving that this myth - as myths are wont to be - is bulls**t.

And my apologies, but I'll take the word of social scientists and traffic analysts over yours, guy-who-once-had-a-road-accident-with-one-woman-now-suddenly-all-women-are-useless-drivers. (Because women, as we all know, are one homogenous lump, moving en masse through life with their identical woman-brains.)

Cue: 'But just because men are three times more likely to die on the road doesn't mean they're worse across the board!' 'Men can do all the fancy maneuvering spatial looping tricks!' 'Women don't pay attention! All the scrapes and dings!'

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

First of all, not true: "Accident rate differences were caused by lack of attention and impatience among male drivers."

Also, I don't know about you, but I'd rather be in the passenger seat of someone three times less likely to die on the road when all's said and done. Staying alive is, for me at least, kind of a priority. Thanks all the same.

Anyway, let's shift our attention to something more important and interesting, like why this patronising gender stereotype is propagated by so many men in the first place. Here are some guesses. Feel free to add your own.

Men like to lord it

Ladies be doing and succeeding at everything now, slipping through the cracks into male spaces like harpy eels. And they're so goddamn good at stuff, which grates. But here is one last bastion in which it's socially acceptable to mock women's ability. So naturally it's milked to within an inch of boring life - often bolstered by another, invisible force called General Resentment.

Man pride

"Femaleness" is a lower currency, socially and culturally speaking. So, got to keep it out of the engine. Check out that documentary, Fast and Furious. That's the natural order.

Men have an historic hangover

Driving was a boys' club until around the 1970s. Even when families owned a vehicle, the man of the house drove it. Or, as US writer Montgomery Rollins observed: "It's no child's play to run a motor car. No license should be granted to anyone under eighteen . . . and never to a woman, unless, possibly, for a car driven by electric power."

Considering they haven't been around that long (cars, not women), it's not so surprising the stereotype prevails. Except now it's modern times, so it leaks out in the form of flippant, wry remarks, because here.

Men traditionally taught women to drive. They cannot leave this role as teacher, because they like to be teacher and not student because TEACHER MORE AUTHORITY THAN STUDENT.

Finally, a word of caution: men aren't only more dangerous as drivers, they're also more likely to be hurt while walking. You silly dudes - *pats dudes on the head* - be careful out there.

- www.nzherald.co.nz

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