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COLUMN: The Vagina Carlogues

2007-12-10 08:11

Morgan Naidu

I know it's clichéd and cool to rip off women about their supposedly bad driving abilities, but the fact of the matter is that it's not just motorists with vaginas that make lousy drivers.

Amazingly, year in and year out we are bombarded with some survey or the other that declares either men or women to be the better species when it comes to handling a motor car.

In one British survey last year, women actually voted themselves as the weaker sex when it comes to driving, claiming that men were more confident and safer. Even multiple grand prix winner Gerhard Berger was once quoted as saying that his daughters were simply not good enough to compete in motor racing against male rivals.

Easy targets

The reality is that, like taxi drivers, women are easy targets when it comes to blame for driver error and road accidents.

Yet, speak to a number of senior instructors at advanced driver training schools around the country and the feedback is the same: firstly, women actually listen - and carefully, at that. The women drivers attending the courses, say industry experts, are often slower than their male counterparts. Not because of ability, but because they are more precise and make fewer mistakes.

Of course, the relatively sheltered environs of an advanced driver training circuit are a far cry from life out in the real world - in traffic, morning, noon and night when many drivers don their dark cloaks, bare the fangs and come out to play and wreak havoc.

In the real world

We saw this recently in Johannesburg when the city experienced its worst gridlock ever because of motorists who simply parked across intersections rather than simply wait behind the traffic lights.

That day was exceptional, yet my daily morning routine involves drivers coming up the wrong side of the road to sneak into the traffic circle - again on the wrong side and cut across.

Once I've negotiated this, it's time to dice with the hooting, light flashers on the highway who expect you to move over - whether there is room on the left hand side or not.

In Cape Town earlier this year, I had the distinct displeasure of a road-raged driver who could not comprehend why I simply did not move over for her. The basis for my refusal was threefold: permanent speed cameras ahead on the highway, there were cars on my left and I hate any motorist - male or female - who tries to force other drivers off a lane with flashing lights, hand gestures and a few threatening advances.

Driving is art

Driving is a subtle, smooth and precise art. You need to respond to the situation, but first you actually pre-empt it by doing all the basics correctly.

If you are worried about rush hour bumper-to-bumper simply get up earlier.

Don't want to be part of the holiday rush? Leave a day later.

Above all, no driver should underestimate his or her ability to be utterly stupid out on the road or inclination to one or more bouts of negative emotions.

One academic who lectured on driving psychology said that many drivers tend to misinterpret the intentions of other drivers - particularly if they are under the influence of negative emotions.

In his academic survey, this lecturer found that risk-taking action increased when drivers started feeling angry or even highly emotional.

Some of the actions under the influence of negative emotions were:

  • speeding
  • sitting on somebody's bumper or tailgating as the Americans call it;
  • ignoring etiquette on safe following distances;
  • rushing through red robot intersections;
  • criss-crossing lanes without indicating;
  • dicing with other drivers;
  • swearing and rude gesturing;
  • performing risky traffic moves, irrespective of potential harm to occupants in your car... The list is indeed long and locally we can add many incidents of baseball bats being hauled out or even handguns that resulted in death to one party.

    And, again to reiterate the original point, the guilty parties in all these cases was a combination of drivers from both sexes.

    There were even a couple cases where pet dogs or cats somewhere ended behind the wheel of a moving vehicle - some ending without injury to man or animal.

    There was also the hapless American (I think it was in Sacramento) some years back who was working on his laptop while driving and he experienced a simultaneous computer and car crash before passing on into the big highway in the sky.

    Bottom line: driving while under the influence of stupidity is not reserved for any one sex - it's a charge we have all been guilty of at some time or another.

    We all have somewhere to go and laptop or baseball bat incidents aside, we'd like to get there alive and well.

    SO, next time some man or women driver tests your patience and gets the needles on your bitch-streak-meter spinning, just smile and wave...

    Smile and wave!


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