You might think that we would be long past the point when stand-up comedians and blokes in bars would be telling sexist jokes about women drivers. Surely in the 21st century, these kinds of gags are so outdated, that no self-respecting man would consider repeating one?
Sadly, not, as new Doctor Who actor, Jodie Whitaker, found out, when her casting was announced in 2017. Within minutes, social media was flooded with women driver jokes. In fact, Twitter and Facebook were flooded with the same, unfunny women drivers joke – which just goes to prove that these gags are woefully old-fashioned.
And yet for all the jokes and myths about how terrible they are behind the wheel, the fact is that females are generally better, safer and more law-abiding than their male counterparts and that gags about incompetent women drivers actually make ladies perform worse, by undermining their confidence.
Women are now legally allowed to drive in every country, thanks to the recent decision by Saudi Arabia’s authorities to lift a ban on females getting their license. Activists in the country had even been arrested for previously flouting the law, forcing the government to change its mind.
Perhaps Saudi men and guys elsewhere in the world need to familiarize themselves with the following list of myths and facts about women drivers if they want to know the real truth about ladies’ abilities behind the wheel.
Most of those outdated jokes about women drivers stem from the fact that many people – mainly guys – simply believe that men are better behind the wheel than ladies. A misguided belief, as it turns out, as surveys and studies have found just the opposite to be true; women are generally better drivers than man.
Of course, there are exceptions to every rule; some women are truly terrible drivers.
However, there are just as many men who should also have their licenses taken off them because of their own motoring mistakes. Guys are going to have to accept the fact that women are scientifically better drivers.
There is also a perception that women are more likely than men to drive distracted, despite the fact that guys are just as addicted to the cell phones these days! Cell phones aren’t the only distractions, however, and this mistaken belief about women drivers not giving the road their full attention probably stems from tabloid stories about female drivers who have been spotted applying their make-up in queues of traffic or even changing outfits while on a highway off-ramp. A recent survey found that men are more likely to drive distracted, and are also much more likely to be distracted by checking out passing pedestrians…
Going hand in hand with the myths that women are worse drivers and are more likely to drive distracted is the mistaken belief that females are also more likely to be pulled over by the cops.
There may be some police officers who have either a conscious or unconscious bias against women drivers, and therefore pull them over more often.
But given that science shows women are less likely commit traffic offenses, law enforcement should, therefore, have fewer reasons to stop them? In fact, figures on gender and traffic stops show no significant bias one way or another. Race, on the other hand, is a different matter!
Some men still like to think of ladies as damsels in distress, incapable to taking care of anything even vaguely technical, when the truth is that when it comes to car repairs, women are just as capable as guys. Driver’s Ed classes even include instruction in basic car mechanics, including how to change a tire – a simple enough task which doesn’t require the strength most people imagine it should. Every girl should learn basic car mechanics, but should also learn when to accept defeat and call the repair shop. And let’s not forget that there’s no reason that the mechanics at that local car repair shop couldn’t be women too!
Undoubtedly one of the most common criticisms when it comes to women drivers is that they apparently cannot parallel park their vehicles. Given that several states still require a successful demonstration of parallel parking in order to pass the driving test, it would seem unlikely that all women struggle with this relatively simple task. Social media always gleefully reports exaggerated examples of women struggling to parallel park, with videos that often go viral, but these are rare occurrences; most of the time, female drivers parallel park their cars without giving it a second thought, and simply get on with their day.
In the UK, women are actually more likely to pass the theory part of the driving test, and regularly outperform their male counterparts when it comes to top scores.
In 2017, more than 50% of the women who took the written theory test passed first time, compared to just 46% of men.
There is also a suggestion that women are more likely to pass the practical aspect of their driving test first time round when they have a female examiner – either because they feel more comfortable and therefore more confident, or because male examiners may have an unconscious bias against women drivers.
According to a 2013 survey, when couples travel together, men are four times more likely to take the wheel than their female partners.
However, there is no evidence to suggest that this is because women don’t want to drive, or that they prefer to sit back and let their husband or boyfriend take charge.
There may be some gender role hangover from the 1950s when many wives didn’t even have a license, but the fact is that today there are many couples who either share the motoring responsibilities or even where the women do the lion’s share of the driving.
Because of the tendency for men to do more of the driving than their female partners, there is something of a misconception that women don’t actually enjoy driving. Actually, there is no proof that women don’t enjoy driving - although commuters of both genders probably find getting stuck in rush hour gridlock equally annoying. There are plenty of women who enjoy driving as a hobby, and many more who have chosen a career which involves a lot of time behind the wheel, from cab drivers and truckers to motorsport professionals, some of whom have even challenged their male competitors in their relevant field.
If you believe Hollywood, movies and several TV series, then you may also believe that women drivers are able to get out of parking tickets simply by flirting with the police officer who has pulled them over.
Although men get more tickets for traffic violations than women, the figures also suggest that guys are more successful when it comes to talking their way out of a ticket.
56% of men have managed to sweet talk the cop into letting them off with a warning, compared to just 43% of women. Is that because men are actually better at flirting than women?
A common misconception is that women treat their cars simply as something which gets them from A to B, not spending time or money on keeping their car looking good. There are plenty of drivers of both genders who think nothing of driving around in a dirt-covered trash can; similarly, there are lots of men and women who spend a small fortune on making sure their car looks the part, with expensive valet washes and mods to improve the engine. You just have to look at the number of female drivers who are getting involved in street racing around the world to see how much some women are willing to spend on their cars.
A lot of US kids learn their driving skills in Driver’s Ed classes, provided through school. However, Driver’s Ed is not always an option for some people, and it doesn’t even exist in many European countries.
When it comes to learning to drive, there is a difference between the methods preferred by men and women; men prefer to be taught by family members or friends, whereas women seem to prefer signing up for lessons with a local driving school.
In turn, this means that female driving instructors are in high demand, as many women prefer to be taught by women.
A major traffic study in 2012 discovered that if you want to arrive safely at your destination, then you should definitely get in a car which is being driven by a woman. Men are the cause of 80% of all fatal and serious car crashes – a significant figure, even taking into consideration the fact that there are more men than women on the road at any one time. Women may be safer drivers, but that doesn’t rule out the possibility that they may end up in an accident that wasn’t their fault, thanks to the generally over-aggressive driving of their male counterparts.
The idea that women are helpless when it comes to car repairs well and truly belongs back in the 20th century. Not only are most ladies perfectly capable of changing a tire, replacing spark plugs or changing the oil in their car, but increasing numbers are taking courses to make sure they are better equipped than many men when it comes to home auto repairs – and plenty enjoy tinkering about with engines so much that they have made it their career. The UK’s first all-female auto repair shop even opened in the city of Norwich back in 2013, inspiring women all over the world to follow suit.
There is actually a great deal of evidence to suggest that women are both safer and more law-abiding drivers than men.
Not only do men cause more serious accidents on our roads, but they also pick up a lot more tickets for traffic violations when they get behind the wheel.
Men are 13% more likely to receive a traffic citation from the cops for speeding, dangerous driving or other offenses, although women are more likely to get a parking ticket. In 2005, a study from the Bureau of Economics found that 63.4% of all traffic citations issued that year were given to men.
Women may be the butt of more than their fair share of driving jokes – many of which revolve around their apparent inability to park their cars.
The fact is that people of both genders struggle to parallel park, widely considered to be one of the most difficult driving maneuvers and that for every woman who struggles to squeeze into a parking space, there is a man who is having the same problems.
According to surveys, what makes parallel parking more difficult for women is being watched while they parallel park, either by pedestrians or even their own passengers; those jokes have made women drivers nervous of failure when it comes to parking.
There are lots of annoying driving habits; every driver probably has their favorite. Or should that be least favorite? However, tailgating regularly comes out top in surveys to find out the most hated driving habit. And which drivers are more likely to indulge in tailgating? Men. A month-long study of drivers in the UK found that a quarter of men were guilty of tailgating, compared to just one in ten women. Men were also more likely than women to indulge in some other bad driving habits, including jumping traffic lights, driving and texting and cutting dangerously into lines of traffic.
Men are not just more likely to indulge in anti-social driving habits, they are also more likely to be guilty of a potentially dangerous offense – driving under the influence of both legal and illegal substances.
In 2010, male drivers were responsible for four out of every five DUIs in America.
Younger men were much more likely to commit this offense; 32% of DUIs were down to young men between the ages of 21 and 34 despite the fact that they make up just 11% of the overall US population. DUIs are decreasing, but one driver under the influence is one driver too many!
The facts don’t lie; women are safer drivers than men and are also less likely to be stopped by the cops because of traffic violations. Surely there has to be some pay-off for this good behavior? Well, for one thing, women benefit from cheaper auto insurance, thanks to the combined good behavior of the rest of their gender behind the wheel – although individual drivers involved in accidents or fined for traffic violations will soon see their premiums increase in cost. One Canadian driver even legally changed his gender, after he had struggled to get a decent auto insurance quote as a male.
Women drivers aren’t just superior when it comes to every-day driving. Some women have shown their skills in the world of professional motorsport, taking on the guys at their own game – and sometimes even beating them!
In the 1970s, Lella Lombardi made 17 starts in the male-dominated Formula One, while more recently Suzi Wolff has earned a reputation as one of the top test drivers in the sport.
Danica Patrick is one of the most successful women racing drivers of all time, with a win in the IndyCar series and pole position in a NASCAR race, as well as the highest finish by a woman in the Indy500.
Men may think they are better drivers than women – but that all depends on what you think makes for the best drivers. If it’s traveling at high speed, driving aggressively, and getting into collisions, then men take the prize. If it’s driving safely, avoiding traffic citations, and paying less for your auto insurance, then women are definitely the winners. Male drivers simply take more risks than women, which makes them less safe behind the wheel. Experts put this down to the overconfidence of male drivers, while women tend to have more concern for their passengers and for other road users.
Sources: Metro.co.uk, bbc.co.uk, telegraph.co.uk,thedrive.com,dmv.org