Rowan Pelling: Don't listen to Clarkson. He hasn't a clue about women

Share
Related Topics

For years I have been conducting a one-woman war against the prejudice levelled at women drivers. It's not a verbal campaign so much as a practical, hands-on demonstration of the fact that it is perfectly possible for a person with XX chromosomes to corner like a racer, to drive up the bumper of tourists and, above all, to reverse her car into a tiny space. Given a choice of parking slots, I will always choose the one in which it is hardest to fit my unwieldy Fiat Stilo.

For years I have been conducting a one-woman war against the prejudice levelled at women drivers. It's not a verbal campaign so much as a practical, hands-on demonstration of the fact that it is perfectly possible for a person with XX chromosomes to corner like a racer, to drive up the bumper of tourists and, above all, to reverse her car into a tiny space. Given a choice of parking slots, I will always choose the one in which it is hardest to fit my unwieldy Fiat Stilo.

Somehow the experience is reminiscent of lacing a matronly body into tight stays. Even when I drove a nippy Punto, I was far too macho to use the patronising "girlie" button (which engaged assisted steering) when I could wrestle my vehicle by sheer brute force into a space the size of a wheelie bin. Someone had to balance the unhelpful impression being given by my neighbour, Belinda, whose tiny Volkswagen would jut into the path of oncoming traffic from a space large enough to berth the QEII. But it seems all my efforts were superfluous.

It's official: women are better drivers than men. Or so says the Vienna-based Organisation for Road Safety whose cross-Europe survey has revealed that women are 35 per cent less likely to be involved in road accidents than men. So I should be feeling vindicated and laying high fives on my fellow Penelope Pitstops. But I can't help harbouring a suspicion that this survey is being misinterpreted. In my experience truly atrocious drivers rarely cause road accidents. Bad drivers emit an unconscious panic signal to other motorists by the way they weave up two traffic lanes, turn right without indicating and suddenly dip to 25mph while trying to wrestle open a packet of Pringles. More often than not they drive 4x4s which sends another covert signal that, however appalling their road skills, they will be safe in their reinforced body cage while your crummy little Fiat will crumple on impact when they swerve at an invisible moose.

No, there are two types of people who cause accidents: young men hammering their mother's Fiesta and good drivers. The young men are deluded after drinking five pints and the good drivers are so adept at taking evasive action at 70mph to avoid the woman knitting at the wheel of her Toyota Land Cruiser that they crash straight into an escaped moose from the travelling zoo. Good drivers, whatever Jeremy Clarkson says, can be of either gender. As far as I remember, model Jodie Kidd still tops the time trials on the Top Gear board. And one of the best books I've read for a long while, Miranda Seymour's The Bugatti Queen, tells the remarkable story of Hélène Delangle, a French exotic dancer turned racing driver, who won many Grand Prix back in the 1930s.

Where I do agree with the carpers is that a disproportionate number of execrable drivers are female. This is partly because the sort of frothy cars that are often aimed at women aren't conducive to developing motoring skills. Will a Corsa help you to feel the road as you zanily tackle a Z-bend? I still remember the crazy run-away milk-float feeling of wrestling my friend Polly's 2CV round a roundabout and suddenly realising that it explained why she was so terrifying at the wheel.

Driving examiners reinforce this by expecting incompetence from female candidates; the friends of mine who drove up kerbs all passed their tests first time. Whereas I, who bombed along flawlessly, was passed on the fourth attempt only when I had learnt to feign driving like a geriatric nun. Even so, I didn't knock over a petrol pump on the day I passed my test; it was my brother. It takes a man to do something as spectacularly improbable as that.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Application Support - Enterprise Java, SQL, Oracle, SQL Server

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A well-established financial soft...

Service Desk Analyst (Graduate, Helpdesk, Desktop, Surrey)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst (Graduate, Helpdesk, Deskto...

Service Desk Analyst (Graduate, Helpdesk, Desktop, Surrey)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst (Graduate, Helpdesk, Deskto...

Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost, Data Mining

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

August catch-up: architecture, suitcases and ‘pathetic figures’

John Rentoul
Mosul dam was retaken with the help of the US  

Air strikes? Talk of God? Barack Obama is following the jihadists’ script after James Foley beheading

Robert Fisk
Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape