I once saw a woman driver wipe out six cars in one go. She'd careered from her side of the road and side-swiped the lot of them before coming to an abrupt halt. When I stopped and my fellow passenger darted across the road to see what had happened, she was understandably in a state. But when he enquired as to how she'd come to ruin the days of six innocent car owners, as well as her own, she simply stated: "It was a bee."
I have witnessed many, many acts of irresponsible driving, by both men and women, sometimes, sadly, resulting in fatalities. With men, I have tended to notice aggressive behavioral tendencies, while many women, in my experience, have just been silly. Apart from the aforementioned lady's inability to come to a stop when an insect entered her personal space, I've seen women driving while applying make-up and one female driver I know confessed that she once shaved her legs while behind the wheel. The mind boggles.
Something we all know is dangerous is driving while on the phone and it's now outlawed in most countries around the world. And since it was banned in the UK, the majority of prosecuted offenders have been women. I even saw a woman who had been pulled over by the police, and she was still talking on the phone as the officer was walking towards her car.
So it was with some interest that I read a front-page report in The National on May 22 that announced it was official: women are safer drivers than men. The findings showed that men are 63 per cent more likely than women to be involved in a car accident and 43 per cent more likely to break the speed limit. The statistics didn't surprise me. Turning to page 6, however, there were photographs of two drivers who had been interviewed for the piece - one male, one female. The male, 18-year-old Andre Neves, had his hands inappropriately positioned on his steering wheel, but at least they were both on it. The female, 25-year-old Hana Yazbak, was smiling at the photographer, rather than looking where she was driving and, surprise, surprise, one hand was holding her BlackBerry. The reporter also noted that she flicked through her iPod and did her make-up on her drive from work. Let's just say she didn't do the sisterhood any favours with that one.
But could those statistics be down to sheer numbers? There are more men on UAE roads than women; that's obvious. And, as one of my colleagues recently pointed out, 100 per cent of all car accidents in Saudi Arabia are down to male drivers. Men do drive like lunatics a lot of the time; tailgating, inappropriate speed, weaving in and out of lanes, even playing tag on the Sheikh Zayed Road between Abu Dhabi and Dubai, where they challenge each other to drive at high speed and touch bumpers. The result is often carnage with entire families dying in a mangled mass of steel, glass and plastic. Something has to change.
I'd been living in Abu Dhabi less than 24 hours when I saw a car on its roof near the Corniche and there's no doubt in my mind that a man was driving when that accident happened. But speed does not kill; inconsiderate driving does and instead of comparing the way either sex drives, what we should be doing is educating all drivers to be courteous and considerate to other road users. Then we might stem the excessive bloodloss on the roads we share. Any life lost in a car wreck is one too many - all men and women will agree on that.