Your Space: Need change in perception about women drivers in city, say Puneites
No traffic offence can be lodged without an actual accident, it is a perception that a woman driver undergoes, says Qaneez Sukhrani
Women drive safer than men
It is definitely generalising (Women drivers in the city would be happy if...), but it is my opinion that women drive safer than men. Men undertake driving on roads (and footpaths) as if it is a war that they have to win at any cost. Born and bred in Mumbai, I never faced this there. It was a culture shock for me after moving to Pune.
When male drivers see a woman driving safely within speed limits, following traffic rules, the first thing they want to do is get after her, zigzag, try to mow her down, push her off the road, honk incessantly, overtake from the wrong side and cut across.
In my opinion, to top this worst list are undoubtedly private taxicab drivers, followed by ST (state transport) drivers, private luxury coaches, company and school bus drivers and PMC’s (Pune Municipal Corporation) garbage vehicles drivers.
No rules, just one intention — road rage to convey that how ‘dare’ can women be allowed to be behind the wheels to be equated to men. This is an open ‘war’. Only a women driver can experience this. No traffic offense can be lodged without an actual accident, it is a perception that a woman driver undergoes.
This is a result of bad upbringing where a male child is treated as God’s gift to mankind and women cannot be treated equal to men. Correction can be done right from childhood where moral science used to be taught in schools, but that is struck off the school curriculum for more competitive topics. So, the final outcome is a male who cannot treat women equally but is a success as a professional.
Coming back to the crux of the debate, violence in any way against women, whether physical or psychological, violence is violence.
Women are capable drivers and legitimate users of the road
It is true that women drivers are treated badly by both policemen and male drivers. I think the perception is that we are easier to bully, to intimidate, and to exercise authority over. A policeman would be more careful and respectful to a man, especially if he looked rich or politically connected. Still, the situation is better now than it was some years ago. And it will keep improving as women become more assertive and confident of their rights. Women have established themselves as capable drivers and legitimate users of the road.
In fact, when a woman traffic cop or warden is guiding the traffic, I always fear for her. Men are quite capable of enjoying teasing her or deliberately breaking the rules, creating chaos, just to test her. I notice that a woman traffic cop usually has a male counterpart close by. It’s necessary.
The change that I would like to see is that of better management of traffic. True, this has nothing to do with gender or gender roles. We seem to be a nation of rule breakers. We seem to get a high by proving that we can break a rule and get away with it. The only way to deal with this tendency is to impose heavy fines. Once bitten twice shy. Drivers of noisy and polluting vehicles should be fined heavily too.
I have a suggestion. Just as we have specially recruited wardens for traffic management, we need to have wardens to watch street behaviour. Drivers who jump the red light or don’t stop their vehicles even when the signal has changed, who stop on or even ahead of the pedestrian crossing (making it so hard for the poor pedestrian to get across safely), those who spit, hog the middle of the road, and those who have tampered with their silencers in order to show off — all of these offenders should be promptly caught and fined. A good sum of thousand rupees should be fined for each offence. The revenue that comes in will more than pay for the wardens. Come on, Pune, be the pioneer and we will soon have a better experience on the streets of our city!
Discrimination on roads certainly exists
As discrimination starts from our homes, and so does change. Firstly, the misconception that only men know how to drive or ride safely needs to be wiped off completely. Once that myth is shattered, establish the idea that riding or driving is any other regular skill, like swimming, cooking and shopping, and that it is not gender specific at all. Just like men and women can cook, riding or driving is also not gender specific. It’s nothing, but independently traveling from one place to another and should not be such a big deal. As for discrimination on roads, it certainly exists. People, mostly men, either ignore small glitches when a women rides or drives, assuming that women are bound to be bad at it, or single out women riders or drivers making them feel that they have entered an alien skill territory not ‘meant’ for them. The idea that women should only ride at the back of man, or beside a driving man, persists. All of that is a form of discrimination which needs to be overcome. And change starts from transforming our perspectives towards them and treating them as equals. Also, as traffic rules are same for everyone, women should not be let go on breaking the rules, only because they are females.
People need to change their mentality too
First of all, women drivers in India are looked down upon. People, including some from the fairer sex, feel that women cannot drive well. This can be true for some cases, but you can’t put the entire community under the same radar. People have this notion that somehow is reflected by them on the roads. Women are made fun of and ill-spoken that makes them lose their confidence. Moreover, the cops on the roads aren’t supportive altogether. There are very few women officers to cater to our problems in such cases. It would be helpful if there is at least one woman officer alongside her male colleague. Moreover, people need to change their mentality too.
First Published: Sep 09, 2018 15:33:57