If there were a traffic accident in a film before 1980, it was probably caused by a woman behind the wheel. They were believed to be dangerous on the roads, unable to use indicators and liable to damage the vehicle. And half of the women in Spain who took part in a survey carried out by Midas have said they had been subjected to chauvinist comments about their driving. According to the Directorate-General for Traffic, 11.6 million women have a driving licence in Spain, and that means that 5.8 million have had to listen to such comments. However, they are all well aware of the reality.
Although no scriptwriter would think about using this cliché in 2022, its origins do bear a certain legitimacy. In the post-war period, very few women had access to a vehicle and those that did were taught by their husbands instead of qualified instructors and had little chance of practising very often.
Since 2011, insurance companies have not been permitted to consider gender as a risk factor in their policies, but until then premiums for women were lower, because although they reported more accidents than men, they were less serious and cost the companies less money.
The accident figures in Spain speak for themselves. Between 2008 and 2019, there were 23,284 deaths in traffic accidents. Of these, 18,005 (77.3%) were men and the remaining 5,279 were women.
Curiously, this proportion has not changed since the Fundación Mutua drew up its report, but between 2008 and 2020 the number of drivers rose from 23.6 million to 27.1 million, an increase of 15%. There were one million more drivers in that period (+10.4%), and 11.6 million women have a driving licence now, an increase of 21.6%. But even so, the mortality rate is no different.
“Although it is true that there are more male drivers than female, it could show that men are more likely to take risks when driving,” said the director of Fundación Mutua, Lorenzo Cooklin. “Women are more careful when they drive,” he added.
The survey also showed that 60.3% of women said they had never been fined, while 69.8% of men had, mainly for speeding (40.3%) or ignoring road signs (12.3%).
The same questionnaire indicated that when people see an accident, they immediately check who was driving, even subconsciously. Half of the men said they think women are worse drivers. Of those who took part in the survey, 17% believe that women are not suited to professional driving and can’t cope with vehicles like lorries (7.3%), breakdown trucks (6.8%) or even cars (5.9%).
However, some women also say they feel they face barriers about driving. Around 26% said they feel insecure at the wheel, and 12.5% have no vehicle of their own. For this reason initiatives have sprung up such as #EllasConducen, under which the NGO Ayuda en Acción finances driving lessons for women at risk of social exclusion.