Everyone probably has an opinion on what constitutes competence or incompetence when it comes to driving an automobile, but when Robin Cummins, the man in charge of overseeing the U.K. Driving Standards Agency, expresses it, it carries extra weigh, and is inevitably controversial.
In an interview with the Sunday Times, as reported by the AFP and several other sources, Cummins expressed his opinion that “Overall it does seem that men can pick up the basic skills more quickly [than women].” Coming just before Valentine’s Day, the comments immediately caused a lot of reaction.
Cummins hastened to note that there were a number of very good female drivers, just as there were a number of terrible male drivers, but that doesn’t seem to have quelled the controversy in the least. A spokeswoman for the British School of Motoring labeled it “the battle of the sexes,” and noted that her organization has found “no marked difference between the way men and women lean to drive.” Age is a more important factor, she indicated.
The U.K.’s First Alternative Insurance, a unit of the Halifax and Bank of Scotland, cited its discounts to female drivers as proof that the industry considers women drivers to have a better safety record than men. It also noted that two-thirds of male drivers show a “need for speed,” compared to only a third of women.
A spokesman for the Association of British Drivers also questioned Cummins assertion that, as women took an average 2.12 driving tests before passing, while men passed at a 1.87 rate, men were better drivers.
Opinions are after all opinions; both sides can defend their ideas with equal vigor. Perhaps the U.K.’s drivers, especially on Valentine’s Day, should also heed the words of British racing legend Stirling Moss, who once observed that there were only two things you could never tell a man he does badly: “Make love and Drive.”
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