METRO PLUS

Whose fault is it anyway?

ZIP, ZAP, ZOOM They're on the move

ZIP, ZAP, ZOOM They're on the move  

There is a remarkable amount of talk about women drivers. The usual accusations: too slow, can't park, too panicky.

It is believed that every woman driver, without exception, sucks. There are still some countries where insurance companies refuse to cover women drivers. There are books dedicated to the subject. Example: "28 Days: What your cycle reveals". We understand, the book says, you have menstrual cycle, you poor girl. It isn't your fault that PMS makes you take the wrong lane, it consoles. But also suggests that anyone with lower levels of oestrogen is bound to be a better driver.

There are tonnes of "humour" websites with photographs of bizarre accidents and cars stupidly parked inside pedestrian subways, and a caption in capital letters reading "Yes! It's a woman!!" Some driving schools in Chennai too offer women learners longer classes so they don't hit the road in a hurry. The nicer people empathise with the woman's innate incapacity to drive: maybe she's born with confusion about gears.

In a sea of merry nonsense about women drivers on the Internet, an Australian Transport Safety Bureau's website makes an observation from accident statistics involving men and women drivers. The national toll is decreasing, they say, but the number of women drivers killed and hospitalised is increasing. "This is due to an increase in the number of women obtaining drivers' licences and an increase in the amount of travel they are undertaking." If there are more women popping up in the accident statistics, it doesn't immediately mean they're getting worse by the minute. It just means more women drivers are now included in the total count.

Yes, bad women drivers do overtake from the inside, they do maintain irritatingly low speeds on highways, they do take ages to park. But the bad male drivers (yes, they do exist) do the same things without being bumped/rushed/yelled off the road for their alleged road skills, or lack of them. Whatever we might say about women at the wheel, it is hardly an equal road for her and her male counterpart.

Busy as we are shaking our heads ruing "these women drivers", we forgive those proactive men who would take sharp swerves around wrong sides in peak hour traffic to helpfully say, "Madam, what are you doing?" The teenaged boy shifting gears clumsily isn't offered a Traffic Rules manual at the next signal. The man on the cell phone driving in the two-wheeler lane doesn't get knocked on his bumper by angry motorists. When the call-taxi always in a hurry whizzes past a red light, no one yells expletives about the driver's flawed genes. And of course, no male driver has to try and block out the lurid gaze of the woman in front, twisting her rear-view mirror for a better look at his chest.

ROHINI MOHAN

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