Adrian Frater, News Editor
If the authorities in Saudi Arabia were to use the Jamaican experience to decide which gender is permitted to drive, men would probably be occupying the passenger seats, based on statistics provided by the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF).
According to data from the JCF's Accident Analysis Unit, of the 12,945 accidents reported in Jamaica last year, women drivers accounted for less than 10 per cent - a mere 1,979 - to the male drivers 9,541 cases.
The gender of the drivers in the other 1,425 cases was not listed. There was also no statistics as to the total number of registered drivers and the breakdown by gender.
"Based on statistics, the women have proven to be safer drivers than our men," said Orville Johnson, general manager of the Insurance Association of Jamaica. "In terms of crashes, they have a much better record, and I think they are quite competent."
Fatal accident data
In regard to Jamaica's fatal-accident data, female drivers were again far superior to their male counterparts, accounting for just 13 of the 234 fatal accidents recorded last year.
By contrast, men had 201 fatal crashes, while the gender of the persons involved in the other 20 cases could not be ascertained.
In speaking to the safety record of women drivers against that of men between 2000-2003, which showed that 19 male drivers died for each female in road crashes, Paula Fletcher, executive director of the National Road Safety Council, intimated that it could be a case of testosterone at work .
"A lot of them (male drivers) see their cars as extensions of themselves, and so they would want to make a statement. It's the whole macho thing that they need to do these things to affirm their maleness," Fletcher was quoted as saying.
A source close to the insurance sector told The Sunday Gleaner that while most of their clients are men, women are the favourite customers of insurance companies, because with less accidents, they are less of a financial burden on the companies.
"ICWI has recognised that women have better safety record, and their 'Road Angel Programme' is basically designed to keep it that way," the insurance source said. "While among the men who have the so-called 'shotta' drivers (persons who drive at excessive speed), you rarely find that among women drivers."
Based on the JCF statistics, the women of the St Andrew South Police Division and the parish of Hanover had the best safety record last year. In terms of fatal accidents, 10 parishes ended 2012 without any women drivers being involved in fatal accidents.
"I have been driving for almost 20 years ... I have gone through three driver's licences and I have not had any accidents," said Montego Bay-based circulation executive Olive Gordon. "During that time I had my daughter and she is in perfectly good health."
In Saudi Arabia, only men are permitted to acquire driving licences, effectively ruling out women from a place behind the steering wheel legally.
In seeking to justify the ban on female drivers, Sheikh Saleh Al-Loheidan, a noted cleric, said that driving will cause damage to the ovaries of women, resulting in babies being born with clinical problems.
The Sheikh's statement has been the subject of much ridicule in the Western world, with medical experts describing the claim as baseless and without merit.
The driving interest among Saudi women was reportedly sparked when they saw female American soldiers driving military vehicles on bases established in that country during the 1991 Gulf War. Since then, Saudi women have been protesting the restriction on them.
The call for
driving equally intensified recently, with the call by female activist
groups to defy the ban on driving, and subsequent case of Saudi women
posting videos on social media showing them breaching the