x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

'Women driving too slowly' blamed for causing accidents

The Ministry of Interior said yesterday that women driving too slowly can lead to as many problems on the roads as speeding male motorists.

ABU DHABI // Women driving too slowly are causing accidents and traffic jams and can lead to as many problems on the roads as speeding drivers, the Ministry of Interior said yesterday. While the vast majority of road accidents are caused by men, the Ministry said that this was "despite [women] driving their vehicles at a very slow speed". According to findings from an investigation titled Soft Driving: Confusing for Others, or a Model? released by the Ministry yesterday, 2,916 of the 3,172 traffic accidents recorded last year in the capital were caused by men almost 92 per cent. Just 256 accidents were caused by women drivers. The term "soft driving" refers to female motorists.

Driving below the minimum speed limit on highways and inner-city roads also resulted in 135 fines last year. Slow motorists cause accidents when frustrated commuters, perhaps anxious to get to school or work on clogged roads, try to overtake lagging vehicles, the Ministry said, with women apparently being identified as frequent culprits. Despite the investigation's claim that women are often slow drivers, Jihad Sebeitah, the general manager of Emirates Driving Company, said in a joint statement with the Ministry that "there is no male driving or female driving, but there are common behaviours".

But he added: "Some say that males are more rushed and have an adventurous spirit, whereas females are by nature less rushed and more deliberate." However, driving rules are the same for men and women, Mr Sebeitah said. The report stressed the dangers of slow driving, chastising those who often delay other motorists in the middle or left lanes, "preventing them from reaching work on time, and putting them at risk of accidents while attempting to overtake cars that are travelling slowly, particularly on outer roads".

"There are general guidelines for road users, male or female," said Col Hamad al Shamsi, the head of the Abu Dhabi Police Traffic Department. He called on slow drivers to use the right lane, particularly on highways. Driving slowly on the left or centre lanes is a violation because it causes congestion, and at dangerously slow speeds it is difficult to avoid accidents, said Mahmoud Abdul Qader, a researcher at Abu Dhabi Police's Centre for Research and Security Studies.

"The road represents a society and road users should respect the rights of others," he said. Mr Abdul Qader said that slow drivers in these lanes, particularly on highways, increase the risks of rear-end collisions and crashes among vehicles trying to overtake them. The report comes just two days after an announcement by the police that they would bolster undercover patrols that curb speeding, which was the cause of more than two-thirds of traffic offences registered last year in Abu Dhabi.

Caroline Victoria, a college student and driver, said the criticism of female motorists was unfair. "I agree that women drive are slower than men, but most accidents are caused by 20-year-olds who go crazy on the highways," she said. But Omayya al Sayegh, a driver and housewife, said women were generally bad drivers. "They're slow and they lack concentration," she said. "If you see anyone driving aimlessly from left to right and not knowing where to go, you can tell that she's a woman."

However, Amal Shukrallah, a female driver and former schoolteacher, said: "That's the opinion of people who are against women. "Everyone knows that some of the best drivers in the world are women." Abdullah, a Saudi national who asked for his last name not to be published, said that driving below the speed limit was a problem, but he did not notice women disproportionately driving slowly. "In my experience they drive as normally as any other person," he said.

"They're not aggressive drivers like males who will overtake you and use the high beam on you, but they drive as normally as everyone else." Hisham El Shaarani, an engineer, said he noticed that females were generally slower drivers, but that it was important to curb speeding as well as slow driving to ensure smooth traffic flow. "In my opinion, the problem is a combination of people driving slow and fast on the same road," he said. "They should educate people so that when the speed limit is 100, everyone should drive at that speed. The traffic should flow at the same rate." @Email:kshaheen@thenational.ae

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