Friday, March 13, 2009

Are Mothers the Worst Drivers?

Remember a few years ago when Britney Spears was internationally maligned for driving with her baby son on her lap?

Imagine if she was breast feeding , talking on a cell phone time and touching up her makeup at the same.

Recently a 39 year old women was stopped by police for doing just that, (actually not sure she was doing her makeup) and has been charged with a first-degree misdemeanor of child endangering and minor misdemeanor for unlawfully restraining her child, who was reportedly younger than 2.

The women said that she had decided to feed her daughter while driving because she “does not deprive her child when she is hungry.”

A registered nurse and lactation consultant for Kettering Medical Center, responded to that by saying that it would have been in the best interest of the child if she had pulled over. "She should have put her baby first, and not put the baby in an unsafe situation. She should have been in her car seat."

"If the baby is not strapped in, that could cause terrible head injury," she said. "I don't have anything against breast feeding, but there has to be a better place to do it. (How about at the local shopping mall, where it seems to be some sort of fad).

Of course this story does not prove that women are worse drivers than men, but only proves that this particular women is an idiot. However research has shown that many women with children take unnecessary risks while driving to attend to them, which is the opposite of what they should be doing.

So this activity doesn’t speak to whether mothers are the worst drivers skill wise...but perhaps judgement wise. Your average Dad driver could care less if the kids are crying in the back seat...he has already learned to filter all that out. But mother’s have the instinct thing driving them to put the kids happiness ahead of the need to drive safely.

Lest you think I am picking on women in this piece, I just ran across a new study from England that showed women and gay men are likely to be the worst drivers. The research has revealed that both perform poorly in tasks involving navigation and spatial awareness when compared to heterosexual men.

Psychologists at Queen Mary, University of London, who conducted the study, believe their findings show that driving in a strange environment would be more difficult for gay men and women than for straight male motorists. Both tend to rely on local landmarks to get around, and are also slower to take in spatial information.

"Straight Men are good at using distal, or geometrical cues, to decide if they’re going north or south, for instance. They have a better basic sense of direction, but they can use local land marks as well. "Driving in a novel environment which is poor in cues is where these differences are likely to show up most. "Women and gay men are going to take a lot longer to reach their destination, making more errors, taking wrong turns etc. They need more rich local landmarks." (Like Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdales, and Whole Foods).

Wow, I guess the good news about this research is that very few if any of the gay men I know will be tempted to breast feed while driving. Further, one of my favorite writers, David Sedaris, a Raleigh native, and gay, says he never drives because he is no good at it. But I digress...

In search of more proof that mothers are the worst drivers I looked at some actual crash statistics from Johns Hopkins Schools of Medicine and Public Health showing that female drivers are involved in slightly more crashes than men.

Although men are three times more likely than women to be killed in car crashes, researchers have found that, when the total numbers of crashes are considered, female drivers are involved in slightly more crashes than men. Overall, men were involved in 5.1 crashes per million miles

driven compared to 5.7 crashes for women, despite the fact that on average they drove 74 percent more miles per year than did women. BUT, since the men drove 74% more miles than the women, their raw number of accidents are higher than that of the women.

Now this is where it gets interesting. The statistics show that although teenage boys started off badly, with about 20 percent more crashes per mile driven than teenage girls, males and females between ages 20 and 35 were equally at risk of being involved in a crash, and after age 35 female drivers were at greater risk of a crash than their male counterparts, which is precisely the prime age of mothers with kids.

Is this the smoking gun? (or the slightly damp nursing bra?) Not sure, but it is sort of intuitive that breast feeding, talking on the phone and fussing with your make up when driving is just not a good idea and anyone doing that is going to be in more accidents, no matter what their sex or sexual persuasion might be.

BTW the statistics show that men are more likely to drive while intoxicated, not use a seatbelt, and exceed the speed limit. Duh

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