life in and around NYC is insane

Friday, March 27, 2015

Women and Driving

So I found myself alone in my car at 11:00 one night, driving on the infamous Cross Bronx Expressway.  Conditions in the Bronx  have vastly improved since The Bonfire of the Vanities, but that highway is still a nightmare.  Potholes, construction, big trucks and lunatic drivers.

And for some reason I was thinking about a friend of mine, a woman I haven't seen in awhile.  I was remembering a conversation we had.  My friend lives in New Jersey, and her  teenage daughter is involved in an activity with events all over the state.  My friend was telling me about the various activities, and how she had to drive her daughter.  Then she said "but the event next week is too far, I am going to have to ask my husband to drive her because I won't drive that far."

The day she said it, I had just come back from a road trip, Becca and I had gone to Boston to check out a few colleges. Just the two of us.  I'd driven all the way to Boston and all the way back.

I thought that my friend's attitude about driving had died off in the 20th century.  But I  suppose there are still a lot of women who feel the way my friend feels..  Not comfortable behind the wheel, deferring to their husbands when it comes to driving. 

When I was a little girl, the "crazy woman driver" was a staple of sitcoms and standup routines. Ironically, the insurance industry statistics say women are better drivers than men, less likely to have an accident, less likely to receive a traffic citation. But back then, everyone talked about "crazy women drivers" and how men were superior behind the wheel.

 I laughed at the jokes like everyone else, but honestly, the character they were talking about, well, in my world, she was pure fiction.

My mother learned how to drive when she was in college.  It was the early 1950's and she was living in the Bronx, so learning to drive was not a necessity.  But her cousin who lived in the suburbs was learning to drive, and she was very competitive...

She was a very good driver, maybe a bit aggressive on the road, but competent and unafraid to drive anywhere she wanted.  She hasn't been behind the wheel of a car in 3 years, but she still thinks of herself as a driver.

My sisters and I were raised in the suburbs of Long Island, in a community with no public transportation. Learning to drive was a necessity, a car represented freedom.  Of course we got our driver's licenses, and of course we drove everywhere.

I have never hesitated to drive anywhere.  I've driven Pennsylvania on vacation, to Boston and Rhode Island on college searches, even took a group of teenagers to Six Flags in a rented van.  It never occurred to me to think I couldn't do it.

Don't misunderstand.  I don't particularly like driving.  I think it's a means to an end, a way to get from point A to point B.   I don't like sharing the road with big trucks, I think there are a lot of lunatics on the road (of both genders), and driving over large bridges makes me nervous.  But I value my independence, my ability to take care of myself, of not having to rely on someone else to take me wherever I want to go.

I don't think either of my daughters ever gave a thought to gender differences when it comes to driving.  They simply get into the car and go.

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