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Wed 20 Feb 2008 04:00 AM

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The female of the species

A recent Saudi decision offers the perfect opportunity to reignite that great debate: who are the better drivers, women or men?

So it seems that women are finally going to be allowed behind the wheel in Saudi Arabia, an announcement that presents us with the perfect opportunity to reignite that great debate: who are the better drivers, women or men?

‘There has been a decision to move on this by the Royal Court because it is recognised that if girls have been in schools since the 1960s they have a capability to function behind the wheel when they grow up,' a source is reported to have said while confirming a decree would be issued by the end of the year.

It's nice to see women are now deemed competent enough to venture outside of the kitchen. Even though that is one of the most dangerous places in the home, where the majority of accidents happen. It's a miracle they've survived around the multiple hazards of sharp knives, spilt water and exploding cookers long enough, to evolve to state where they can ‘function behind the wheel'.

Shura Council member Mohammad Al Zulfa said the decision comes as part of King Abdullah's reform strategy. ‘When it was first raised, the extremists were really mad,' he said. ‘Now they just complain. It is diminishing into a form of consent.'

I love that! What a great philosophy. Wouldn't the planet be a much better place if world leaders could resolve all major issues with just a shrug and grumble?

Time for a gratuitous women driver joke methinks:

Wife - ‘There's trouble with the car. It has water in the carburettor.'

Husband - ‘Water in the carburettor? That's ridiculous. You don't even know what a carburettor is. Where's the car?'

Wife - ‘In the swimming pool.'

Tests at the Bradford University in the UK a couple of years ago suggested that attention spans and the ability to learn rules were far better among women than men and tasks requiring mental flexibility favour women over men. ‘A woman's oestrogen levels may prime the part of the brain involved in such skills,' the scientists proposed. Makes sense - women are the better multi-taskers, after all.

A traffic analysis report in Washington, US, last year revealed that male drivers have a 77 percent higher risk of dying in a car accident than women. Insurance companies have even widely accepted such findings as fact and in many parts of the world female drivers now qualify for cheaper premiums than men.

Who's laughing now? Oh I see. It's the blokes at the back wearing racing boots and holding their helmets.

Okay then: Danica Patrick, current US IndyCar racer with three pole positions; Shirley Muldowney, the first woman to receive a Top Fuel licence and who won the NHRA Top Fuel championship in 1977, 1980 and 1982; and Michèle Mouton who almost snatched the WRC title from Walter Röhrl in 1982. 'Nuff said.

Arabian Business: why we're going behind a paywall