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

Recruitment Genius: Business Analyst - 12 Month FTC - Entry Level

£23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Analyst is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Chefs - All Levels

£16000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To succeed, you will need to ha...

Recruitment Genius: Maintenance Engineer

£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join an award winni...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive & Customer Service - Call Centre Jobs!

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Day In a Page

Read Next
George Osborne appearing on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, 5 July 2015  

George Osborne says benefits should be capped at £20,000 to meet average earnings – but working families take home £31,500

Ellie Mae O'Hagan
The BBC has agreed to fund the £650m annual cost of providing free television licences for the over-75s  

Osborne’s assault on the BBC is doing Murdoch’s dirty work

James Cusick James Cusick
Isis in Syria: Influential tribal leaders hold secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over possibility of mobilising against militants

Tribal gathering

Influential clans in Syria have held secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over the possibility of mobilising against Isis. But they are determined not to be pitted against each other
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians
Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously

Illnesses, car crashes and suicides

Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously
10 best trays

Get carried away with 10 best trays

Serve with ceremony on a tray chic carrier
Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high
How to find gold: The Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge

How to find gold

Steve Boggan finds himself in the Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge
Singing accents: From Herman's Hermits and David Bowie to Alesha Dixon

Not born in the USA

Lay off Alesha Dixon: songs sound better in US accents, even our national anthem
10 best balsamic vinegars

10 best balsamic vinegars

Drizzle it over salad, enjoy it with ciabatta, marinate vegetables, or use it to add depth to a sauce - this versatile staple is a cook's best friend
Wimbledon 2015: Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Serena dispatched her elder sister 6-4, 6-3 in eight minutes more than an hour
Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?