Women

Are women worse drivers than men?

The answer may surprise you.
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There are so many ways—some of which aren’t even based on facts—to answer this question, that a column will hardly scratch the surface of the debate. If you ask me and the rest of the male motoring population, the answer is a resounding yes: Women are worse behind the wheel of a car than their husbands/ boyfriends/brothers/fathers. 

Of course, if you ask Danica Patrick and Michelle Bumgarner, they’ll simply laugh off the question and challenge any guy to a race. Unless, of course, the guy’s name is Sebastian Vettel or Georges Ramirez. But the existence of a handful of excellent female racing drivers is not necessarily indicative of the overall quality of driving among women. Because then you’d also have to ask why there’s no lady driver in Formula 1.

Conversely, I think it’s unfair to cite the occasional case of the inept female driver. But allow me to be unfair now in recounting an incident I witnessed firsthand a few years ago. I went for a quick stop at a fuel station on EDSA one evening and parked my car in front of the convenience store. Minutes later, when I returned, I saw the heavily tinted compact SUV parked to the left of my car slowly backing up. 

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I watched in horror as the SUV’s right front wheel scraped, in slow motion, the left side of my car’s front bumper. My first thought was: “How stupid could this driver be?” There was plenty of space to easily wiggle out of the slot. But the driver obviously didn’t know how to back up at an angle. Worse, the driver had no idea the bumper-scraping was happening. I was so livid I banged on the SUV’s hood. I didn’t care if there was a group of gangsters behind those dark windows. 

The SUV stopped and the driver—a girl, it turned out— stepped out. Realizing what she had just cluelessly inflicted on my car, she apologized profusely and offered to give me her number (no doubt confident I was melting at the sight of her pretty face). I’d lie if I said I didn’t think this: “No wonder.” 

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That automatic and dismissive mentality toward female drivers is common among men. It’s not being sexist; it’s just being reactive. It’s what we actually experience out there. It’s the thought that visits me whenever a female companion hands me the keys and asks me to parallel-park for her. Or whenever I watch a YouTube video of a woman mindlessly driving through a poor parking barrier.

But again: Are women worse drivers than men? Are those instances of laugh-out-loud driving isolated or typical? Do we have numbers to support the argument?

I don’t know if the LTO or the MMDA has available (and accurate) information that shows the ratio of female traffic-rule offenders to male ones, but here are some findings from a study released by an American car-insurance provider in May 2012: “Eighty percent of all fatal and serious car crashes are caused by male drivers, and women are 27 percent less likely than men to cause auto accidents. The study goes on to show how traffic violations are higher for male drivers in almost every single category, be it reckless driving, failure to yield, seatbelt violations, or speeding.” 

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The knee-jerk response of men to such studies is: “Of course, there’d be more accidents and more traffic violations among male drivers simply because there are more men driving.” I don’t know if this is valid, because in the US, driving is as much a daily activity for women as it is for men. But then, I’m also not sure if we can use accident and traffic-violation statistics to determine which gender is better at the wheel. 

So let me just offer this: Women are safer and more responsible drivers than men. They’re less likely to go over the speed limit; they’re less likely to swerve and cut; they’re less likely to drive drunk; and they’re less likely to succumb to road rage. 

But men are better than women when it comes to the technical operation of the vehicle. We can parallel-park; we can slalom; we can drift; we can do the J-turn; and we can bang our heads to Metallica at 200kph. 

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Which is to say male drivers are more awesome. End of debate. 

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Vernon B. Sarne
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