Belfast Telegraph

Now it's official, female parking will drive you round the bend

By Robert McNeill

I've a confession: my spatial abilities are those of a woman. Terrible thing to admit. As with any respectable scientific treatise, I should first define my terms.

By spatial abilities, I refer to judging distance, movement and angles, particularly in the driving and the parking of cars. By woman, I mean the species that is like man, but infinitely more interesting and less prone to starting wars (other than domestic).

There's no use giving me funny looks. It's a scientific fact that women's spatial abilities are poorer than men's. New figures by the Driving Standards Agency bear this out, revealing that, of 170,000 non-men who failed their driving test in 2010, 55,000 mucked up on parking.

If you don't trust the Driving Standards Agency, another study by researchers at the Ruhr University Bochum, in Germanyshire, found that women took 20 seconds longer than men to park. Some females claimed their breastular accoutrements got in the way when turning round, though other observers said this indicated they were facing the wrong way in the first place.

The women have my sympathy, not for their hootular protuberances, for their parking. For I'm terrible at it too. Every time I try to reverse-park, a small crowd gathers and, soon, the radio is announcing that, due to an incident on a suburban street, all major motorways are now closed. Not my fault. I learned to drive in a rural area, where my instructions on reverse-parking were: "See if you can get it in there, between the field and the sea."

One thing no study has elucidated, but which is anecdotally irrefutable, is that women are terrible drivers generally. Come on, they are! Listen, as I get older, truths are established from experience, not books or ideology.

I've known birds who were cockily assertive about their driving skills, but I dreaded getting into vehicles with them. One used to reverse out without looking, and regarded a red light as optional guidance. She'd take anything as a signal to go: "Lo, a pigeon has flown across the sky. 'Tis a portent! I must drive through this busy junction now."

Another similarly oozed self-confidence, but was all over the place on the road and used both hands to change gears (question: why do women always put the hand-brake on when stopped for even a second?).

However, to be fair, women generally don't drive up your butt. To that extent, men are worse drivers generally, and the German study mentioned above bore out the stereotype of the boy racer, young males who think they possess mysterious powers that make them the best driver ever.

Sensible citizens have welcomed environment minister Alex Attwood's plan to halve the drink-driving limit. But Alex should go further, forbidding males to drive until they are 40 or 42. The authorities' attitude seems to be: "It's terrible how many people are killed every year by young men swaggering ineptly in motor vehicles. But, hey-ho, there you go."

Get them banned. Banning is the basis of civilisation, which brings me back to women. In general, they're to be commended for being gentle and aesthetically fascinating. But when they need to park, they should get out of the car and summon the nearest gentleman over 42. Not me, though. I'm rubbish at it too.

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