In the driver's seat

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ROAD STARS Women generally play by the rules and are considerably less aggressive while driving
ROAD STARS Women generally play by the rules and are considerably less aggressive while driving

The time has come to smash the myth that women drivers are hormonally incapable of skill on the roads

Have you, by chance, seen that internet joke that's been doing the rounds? The one awarding medals to the ten worst (women) drivers? Well, it is slightly amusing - the preposterous positions that the cars are parked, the gas nozzle trailing from a moving vehicle, etc; but it's also mildly irritating that every one of the absurdities are credited to women! Why, you just have to google `women drivers jokes' - it comes up with a whopping 19.8 lakh results - and you get an idea just how systematic and stereotypical the slander is!

Of course, you can always say its just a harmless joke (except, at a few shy of 20 lakhs, isn't it one too many?) and that if you ignore it, it will go away_Then again, that's a boringly predictable, highly pacifist reaction; besides, some of the myths simply cry for some serious busting - is it possible at all that 50 per cent of the human race finds parallel- parking challenging? For sure, they could have a few marked weaknesses, but what about the many unsung strengths?

To give us a better perspective about women's driving abilities in general (and parallel parking in particular) we spoke to three seasoned women-drivers - Mythili, who's been behind the wheel of a wide range of cars for well over 20 years, Nanditha who has clocked in nearly as much, and Sue, who's been driving `forever' and currently zooms around in an uber-stylish red sports car.

Women are perfectly good drivers, thank you very much...

Given the sharp increase in the number of practical, affordable small cars, and the corresponding burgeoning number of women-drivers, any genderspecific bad-driving should've, by now, resulted in half the population hobbling around in crutches! But that's hardly been the case, has it? "Women typically drive more cautiously" says Mythili. "Not only are they less reckless, they're also more unlikely to, say, drink and drive!"

"I think women generally play by the rules and are considerably less aggressive," adds Sue. "In fact, it's quite sorry (but true) that even when I'm on the right, and a guy is blocking me out on a one-way (driving up the wrong side) I back out! We're quite chary to get up and have a fight."

But, despite that, women sadly end up bearing the brunt of a lot of roadrage. Sue rants about men who won't let her pass, and others who, unable to stand the sight of a woman in control, gun straight for her! `You know, so many men have walked up to me and said, "`You're lucky your husband lets you drive the Porsche!' For some reason, they feel threatened when a woman drives a fast-car!" she says.

That's hardly all - women are also accused of driving too slowly (on highways), credited with having a not-tookeen sense of direction, having no `feel' for cars, clueless about what's inside the hood, and of course, parking badly (argh, that parking thing again!). "Unfortunately, it's true that women - well, some of them anyway - have a poor sense of judgement and directions while driving," says Nanditha. "I have discussed this with my friends, and many admit it's a short-coming," she adds. "Except", quips Mythili, "when we're lost, we always stop and ask, unlike the vast majority of men, for whom it becomes an ego issue to admit they don't know where they're going."

And as for having no "feel" for cars, the upside is, women aren't, as a rule, reduced to a glazed-eyed, dribbling wreck when they see a machine loaded with what's known as -in the male circles - "raw power" beneath the hood! (If truth be told, women do appreciate "raw-power"; only, they don't care for it much in cars!). "The downside is, when we want to buy a car, we have to ask around, since we're not as clued-in as the guys about features and stuff," says Mythili. A problem that's only exacerbated by the fact that most women's magazines would tell you, in great detail, the relative merits of homemade facemasks, but little or nothing about the best cars for women!

By the way, what are the best cars for women?

While there's a lot of hoo-ha surrounding the ideal women's car, most are just small, sturdy machines, something that'll do nicely on the schoolrun and shopping. As a thumb rule, women drive the smaller-car in the family, with the lord and master going for the gas-guzzler. "Men equate cars with power, while for us, it is convenience," says Nanditha. But, Sue reasons that big-cars do have an advantage. "You know, when I drove a large 4- wheel-drive for a bit, nobody messed with me!" she laughs.

And that brings us to the end of_.oops, we haven't mentioned anything about parallel-parking, have we? The thing is, we did ask around, and Nanditha said, `Ha-ha, I pray, every day, that nobody is watching me while I park," while Sue spoke about how "When some women park, up to two cars behind get, ouch, bumped"_

And so, if you don't mind, we're erm just going to leave it at that_. Besides, parallel-parking isn't the end of the world, is it?!





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