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Cyrus Mistry death: ‘Unfair to use accident to hate all female drivers’

Cyrus Mistry death: ‘Unfair to use accident to hate all female drivers’

As Cyrus Mistry’s accident news spread, social media users started using this to run a hate campaign against female drivers. Microblogging site Twitter is littered with comments like – “women drivers are dangerous”, “I hate women drivers”, “these ladies can never drive properly”, “I’m scared of a lady driver”, and so on.

While Anahita and her husband Darius Pandole were severely injured, Mistry and her brother-in-law Jehangir Pandole died on the spot while returning from Gujarat’s Udwada to Mumbai. (Photo: PTI) While Anahita and her husband Darius Pandole were severely injured, Mistry and her brother-in-law Jehangir Pandole died on the spot while returning from Gujarat’s Udwada to Mumbai. (Photo: PTI)

Ongoing probe into the former Tata Sons chairman Cyrus Mistry’s fatal accident revealed that Anahita Pandole, a top Mumbai-based gynaecologist, was driving the Mercedes GLC when the accident happened. While Anahita and her husband Darius Pandole were severely injured, Mistry and her brother-in-law Jehangir Pandole died on the spot while returning from Gujarat’s Udwada to Mumbai. Primary investigation suggests that the car crash could have been caused by over-speeding and the “error of judgement" by the driver.

As the news spread, social media users started using this to run a hate campaign against female drivers. Microblogging site Twitter is littered with comments like – “women drivers are dangerous”, “I hate women drivers”, “these ladies can never drive properly”, “I’m scared of a lady driver”, and so on.

Contrary to the stereotype that women can’t drive well, many studies suggest that women, in fact, are safer drivers than men. A recent report by fleet intelligence company Netstar collected telematics data on registered incidences of vehicle impacts, harsh braking, harsh acceleration, and harsh cornering as a percentage of total male and female customers. And according to the intelligence company, women performed better than men on every metric.

Registered vehicle impacts (e.g. hitting potholes, kerbs, or other vehicles) by women customers represented 1.3% of the total number of Netstar's female customer base during the period measured, compared to 1.4% for men. Regarding harsh braking, registered incidents represent 16.9% of female drivers and 22.8% of males. The numbers for harsh acceleration are 4.5% for women and 10% for men. For harsh cornering, the proportions are 13.2% for women vs 18.8% for men.

Due to stereotype, women often find it difficult to get driver jobs especially for public transport to ensure women safety. But things are changing now. For example, take Parvathy Arya, a truck driver from Mandsaur in the Malwa region of Madhya Pradesh. She holds the Guinness World Record of being Asia’s first woman truck driver. Many state governments are contributing to the change. The Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC), in 2015, hired its first female bus driver, Vankadarath Saritha, to improve women safety and security while commuting via public transport.

Women-only cab hailing services like Delhi’s Women on wheels, Womencabs and Gcabs, Kerala-based She Taxis and Mumbai’s Viira and Priyadarshani, too, are taking steps to ensure women safety as well as break stereotypes against female drivers.

Mumbai-based Rachna Tyagi, an auto reviewer and journalist, says it is unfair to use Cyrus Mistry’s death to spread hatred against women drivers. “It’s not about women being bad drivers. Everyone needs to be a responsible driver from the moment you get behind the wheel and even before you fasten your seatbelt and switch on the ignition. In fact, it starts from checking whether your car tyre’s air pressure is okay even before you open the driver’s door and get in which also includes being completely alert while on the road, sans any distractions,” says Tyagi, who also runs an independent auto website Turn Of Speed.

“All it takes is one split second to lose your focus on the road and that can be fatal. And that has nothing to do with gender.”

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