Statistically, while 90 percent of drivers are men, they also account for over 99.8 percent of Delhi’s traffic accidents. Women, therefore, obviously do not deserve the widely held opinion that they are dangers on the road… although some people might quibble that many of the accidents by men were actually triggered by the distraction of lady drivers.

Ian Fleming was perhaps closer to the mark when he had James Bond saying that women were much more careful drivers than men when they were driving alone… but not when they had company. He explained that women needed eye contact for affirmation of all that they were talking about. Women drivers were, therefore, much more dangerous if there was another lady sitting beside the driver… and positively hazardous if there were ladies sitting in the back seat of the car.

On the whole, women are much more cautious and do not take the daring risks that their macho male counterparts seem to so enjoy. They hate the prospect of accidents and the agony of the subsequent street-side arguments, police reports, etc. Few women are really very interested in cars and driving and these few can be excellent fast drivers.

Women are terrified when their men start accelerating behind a lumbering truck, watching a fast approaching bus and then close their eyes as they whizz through a small gap in traffic with just inches to spare. Shrieks, complaints, mockery and angry words are sure to follow.

Men, similarly, find it very irritating that women drivers, while overtaking, will wait ages till the road ahead is absolutely clear and will then leave a wide space of at least a metre between them and the vehicle being overtaken. Needless to say, they usually make several abortive tries before succeeding. The mounting frustration of the male passenger, furiously pressing imaginary accelerators and brakes, often also ends in mockery and anger.

In these days of power steering, driving does not require strength and women are just as capable as men. Fast driving does, however, require intense concentration. Sterling Moss, one of the world’s greatest race drivers, was a very slow and cautious driver off the racing circuit. He always drove in a defensive cocoon of total concentration fully aware of the risks in every direction. Most women are just not that interested in driving.They have many other priorities with families, home, romance, social life, clothes, vanity, etc. Few have that male ability to forget everything else and focus exclusively upon a dirty old road. A man can, however, be so focused upon the road that he forgets the exact route to the destination. If he is an egotist, he may rudely refuse advice or even deign to ask someone on the roadside for directions, and end up many miles away from his intended destination. Women, though evidently uninterested, sometimes have a most uncanny sense of direction.

Women can, however, be shameless frauds. Many, who are absolutely capable of the dirty chore of changing a tyre, will brilliantly play act the role of a helpless and incompetent female until some male sucker arrives to manfully save the damsel in distress. The male myth, therefore, has the woman driver as an indecisive, fickle, giddy and unpredictable chick while they are fast, sure, confident and decisive. Conversely the female myth has men being rough, pushy, dangerous, insensitive and foolish while they are cool and careful.

For many a man,a car is an extension of his manhood. The car model is a public statement of his life-style aspirations and the driving is an extension of his ego. Overtaking is an assertion of his mastery and dominance and being overtaken is tantamount to being defeated. Of all his possessions, the car alone allows a man a few moments to dream that he is a James Bond, Rambo or the solitary hero of his dreams. For most women, a car is just a useful set of wheels. For a man, it is a part of his personality. No wonder, many women consider their husband’s car as his second wife. Under their breaths, many men mutter that this is one wife who does not mock, complain or talk back to them. Women must however, always have the last word. When cornered on any point of technicality concerning their driving, they seem to have a marvellous ability to dredge up long forgotten memories of their man’s past driving mistakes or his knack of getting lost or feign total disinterest. If these do not work, women are masters at finding many other ingenious ways to puncture the male ego.

—Mr Murad Ali Baig is an internationally renowned automobile journalist who is also the former editor of The Auto Magazine. Besides automobiles, he writes regular columns on various issues to a host of newspapers and magazines.

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