Saturday, February 7, 2009

Am I Driving You Mad?

At the mention of 'lady driver', certain not- so-flattery imagery floats in your head (Ay! Own up)

Ya, fine, I am one of them and it took me five tests before they let me free on the road. I will leave it to you to conclude whether it was a case of less-than-perfect test regime or my inability to satisfy the well-set criteria.

I personally see it as a case of perseverance as I went back to the test centre every month until they told me I did not have to see them again (Yay!)

After driving for a number of years, I believe I do not exude the expected confidence of an experienced driver. Just a few days ago, I was driving several passengers and we had to look for a parking lot during busy hours. The only available one required me to do a parallel park. I could immediate sense their concerns blended with doubts when they asked "Do you think you can do it?"

Of course I can but that is not going to change the perception that lady drivers are hopeless. I am not saying that we are better than men. It is just that we are not as tragic as it is commonly thought.

When you are a new driver on the road, the law here says that you have to display a rather humiliating but necessary "P" plate on the car for a year. In Singapore, instead of a letter "P" (probationary) , the sign is represented by a shiny bright orange triangle. When the rule was new, I asked ignorantly what the sign meant. I was given an uncouth reply that it was a "P" plate which meant "pariah" (Oooh! That hurts!)

The purpose of hanging a "P" plate is to alert other drivers so that they can be more tolerant towards the newbie on the road (hopefully). It works to a certain extent except that when you are a lady driver with a "P" plate, you inevitably become the most avoided member on the road.

A friend even mocked that perhaps all lady drivers should just carry an "F" plate instead. I assume he meant it to represent "Female" and not "Failed", or something worse and unmentionable.

Of course, you would also need to remember that, sometimes, a car with a "P" plate may not suggest a rookie driver. It may be the new driver's dad who already has 30 years of driving experience on the road.

There is no lack of jokes about lady drivers. If you are in the mood of being sexist, go surf in the Internet and you will be greeted with tons of them. It will take a long time (if at all), to reach gender equality on the road - probably not within my lifetime.

Interestingly, reporters think it is newsworthy to carry stories about lady drivers who are having great difficulties passing their driving tests.

Recently, a 68-year old Korean lady, Cha, failed her driving written test 771 times since her first attempt on 13 Apr 05. She has sat for the written test almost every day at the driving licence agency in the province she lives in, except for weekends and holidays. The agency confirmed that her number of failed attempts is record breaking. The passing mark there has been set at 60 and the highest she has ever obtained was 50, but usually much lower.

One traffic police at the agency was quoted as saying "I feel sorry every time I see Cha fail. When she passes, I will make a memorial tablet myself and give it to her."

She had her 771st attempt on 2 Feb and she was not about to stop there. Hers is really a case of extreme perseverance.

In Jul last year, a woman in UK finally passed her driving test after 27 years.

Teresa Clarke, 62, went through 20 driving instructors, spent £15,000 in fees and had 450 hours of tuition before finally winning her full driving licence. She explained, "I've been through a lot of driving instructors because some of them kicked me out. But I was determined to pass and kept going."

Another case of extreme perseverance.

Another woman from UK, Maria McCarthy, passed her driving test in 2005, after 23 years and 250 lessons. She described her ordeal as "the most nerve-wracking experiences of her life."

After she ditched her L-plates, she set out to write her books, "The Girls' Guide to Losing Your L-Plates" and "The Girls' Car Handbook", because she wanted to help others like her. She has given a copy of her book to her long-suffering driving instructor who was pleased when she finally passed.

It may sound really bad because I have put some of the worst stories together. The real world is not that awful.

In fact, statistics have shown that women are safer drivers than men and have proven to make less insurance claims. Some insurance companies are even prepared to offer cheaper insurance premiums to lady drivers due to the same reason.

Anyone can be bad at anything. Don't pre-judge based on gender.

Grow up!

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