Why do we think men should drive?
And what does power steering have to do with it?
Few days ago I got a lift from my friend, with whom I'd had a meeting earlier that day. It might sound dreary, but on that day she came in her father's E38 BMW 7-Series, a car that I absolutely adore. Initially I was stunned, but once my excitement levels have dropped from insanely high to insanely high but manageable, I've noticed a vast incongruence of the whole situation. We were driving in the top of the line German saloon from 20 years ago with me on the passenger sit and her driving. Usually, at least here in Poland, it is the other way around. It was a great ride, but it got me wondering: why is it that we think that the men should drive (or at least I do)?
Not the one I've been in, but nonetheless beautiful car
Data is clear: women should be driving
From this article, it is easy to see that women are much less deadly behind the wheel. Female drivers were involved in 50% less fatal accident than males when driving a car, 75% less when driving a lorry and over 90% less when riding a motorcycle. What is more, men are far more likely to drink and drive, as suggested by this article. Women are also better at obeying traffic rules and they are they tend to be less aggressive whilst driving due to their lower testosterone levels. This is reflected by the insurance prices, as a cover for a female driver is on average 92£ lower than for a male. It is easy to see that roads would be much safer (but maybe a bit more boring) if only the women drove.
What holds the status quo?
I've found several reasons for that in this article and in this one, but I've came up with some on my own too. First of all, many men believe that while driving, they are in charge. This gives them a chance to show their masculinity and to perform a mating ritual in form of a seemingly dangerous turn using a handbrake, drift stick or love handle (whatever it's called). Furthermore, driving is fun (we're on DriveTribe, we can all agree on that) and men simply think they are better drivers. Lastly, males judge speed, perform spatial analysis and do maths in a different way than females. In this case, men have an advantage, as they're better at navigating the car through complex environments.
Woman driving with man on the passenger seat - might seem weird, but according to data should be the usual sight on the roads
It's a cultural thing
But this is not the end of the story. Driving a car signals to others that you are its owner (which might not even be the case). According to this article, people are judged based on what they drive, either in positive or negative way. Sitting behind the wheel of a nice car (like the aforementioned E38 BMW 7-Series) makes others look kindly on you. Even after one day of driving the car, my friend said people have already showed appreciation towards it. Thus, men might want to be judged positively, which makes them more likely to drive a car when they think it's nice.
Furthermore, men's penchant for driving can be connected with nurture. Whilst fathers often put their heart and soul into injecting the interest towards cars and general macgyvering into their sons, daughters are usually encouraged to play with dolls, ride a horse and do other girlie activities. As a result, there are far less female racing drivers (yes, this one is from The Grand Tour) and males have a deep-rooted enjoyment of driving.
But there might be yet one more reason as to why we think men should drive.
Nice car makes people think better of you - and with one like that it can be easier to get your child into motorisation too
Last piece of the puzzle
Before the invention of power steering, steering the vehicle was a hard, exhausting task - literally. Driving a lorry or a bus required a lot of strength - so much so that some old buses had an additional sit in the near vicinity of the driver, which was there for a muscleman to help with turning the steering wheel (this article is in Polish, but you can look at the photos). Cars were a bit better in that regard, but still required some effort to turn the wheel (no one finger steering - I'm sorry). In the 20th century, especially in its first half, many of the male jobs were quite physical. This meant that men were simply better suited to drive a car, as they had more strength to turn the steering wheel.
After the invention of power steering by Francis Davis in 1926, it took about 14 years to start using it in military vehicles during the World War II and about a decade longer to make it popular in regular cars (courtesy of Chrysler and General Motors). This was a game changer, as now driving a car was possible for virtually everyone, not just for the strongest individuals. Although it all happened nearly 70 years ago, reminiscences of the older days still remain, as power steering wasn't an obvious car feature even in the 2000s (Alfa Romeo 4C still doesn't have it, but this is because it doesn't need it). As a result, for a long time driving a car required a lot of physical strength, so the males were responsible for it.
Without power steering, driving like this would be impossible (it's a good thing we have it)
As you can see, women are more suited for driving than men. They cause less accidents, obey the traffic rules more strictly and are overall less aggressive behind the wheel. However, men enjoy driving, as it gives them a sense of satisfaction, control and power. What is more, males by nurture are often more interested in cars and they have an advantage when it comes to navigating the car through complex environments. And, what might pivotal, until very recently, it was physically demanding to drive an automobile due to the absence of power steering. However, the times are changing and we are likely to see even more women driving an SUV with men in the passenger seats, which back in the day would be simply impossible.
I know this is a touchy subject, but I tried my best to be substantive. Let me know what you think about the topic in the comments below!