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Huh. Didn't know they made Cobras in automatic...
Bean Bandit, on being introduced to a female professional driver
Women drivers, no survivors.
Old Saying

A supposedly long-dead comedy trope/stereotype which maintained that a woman behind the wheel of a car automatically became a danger to life and limb. Regardless of how intelligent and thoughtful a woman was, this trope insisted she would become The Ditz -- or worse, a Cloudcuckoolander -- the moment she slipped into the driver's seat: incapable of using turn signals, checking her gear shift position, or even looking where she's going. Even parking could become a major challenge.

Any problems -- or worse, accidents -- she caused would be dismissed with a breezy carefreeness that husbands and traffic cops inevitably found grating, Women Drivers as often as not blaming the car for operator errors.

Being a male driver on a road anywhere within a half mile of a woman driver was grounds for elevated blood pressure and/or anxiety attacks.

If a male character had a traffic accident or fender-bender in a comedy made before 1970, a woman driver was most likely the cause. And if the mom of a pre-1970 Dom Com got behind the wheel, it was all but guaranteed she'd come home with a crumpled fender and an improbable story that completely exonerated her by shifting the blame to another driver or perhaps a tree which lunged out into the street at her.

Still sometimes used in fiction, often set in the Asian parts of the world and California; the common joke here is that everytime you see a car do something incredibly stupid (as opposed to incredibly dangerous or obnoxious), chances are the driver is a woman. With a high probability of them being Asian. It's also very popular in the comments sections of car accident videos on sites like YouTube.

There is a slight dose of Truth in Television to this: due to evolutionary reasons women tend to have slightly worse spatial reasoning skills than men, the men however more than make up for this by risky behavior. Statistically speaking, women are more likely to scratch your car on the parking lot, men are more likely to drive past a red light and into you at a 100kmph. Also a lot of women, more specific women with commuter jobs, hate driving - they may do it for sheer necessity, but for many women the men's reckless love for car and driving appears weird on the border of psychosis. Invoked in poorer societies where the average family has only one car and the fathers tend to log most of the wheel-time.

The trope has been somewhat replaced by Drives Like Crazy, in which the driving is the joke, rather than the womanhood.

Examples of Women Drivers include:


Advertising

  • Glaringly present in this 1970s Goodyear commercial.
  • Allstate has recently taken to playing this trope in their commercials with "Mr. Mayhem" pretending to be a teenage girl (whose SUV, of course, is pink) who gets distracted while texting (in one version just from a normal text, in the other by becoming "emotionally compromised" by a text about a boy she likes) and slamming into another car without noticing. Mr. Mayhem seems to quickly be becoming The Scrappy, and with good reason!
  • Inadvertently invoked in this commercial for a women only car insurance company. Three women singing about how women are safer drivers and deserve lower premiums, while driving a pink convertible is made all the more hilarious by the fact that they don't watch the road or hold the steering wheel (instead, waving their arms in the air in time to the song) and at one point allow a dog to drive.


Anime & Manga

 Vita: I think I just heard a car? I wonder if it's Hayate?

Signum: No, given the sound of difficulty the person has with parking the car in the garage...

Shamal: Hi!

Vita: Oh~....

    • Note that she's also the borderline Lethal Chef, so the joke isn't really on her driving, bu more on her inability in everyday tasks.
  • In Maison Ikkoku, Kyoko has a license, but hasn't been behind the wheel in years. As Shun puts it when asked to ride shotgun, 'Nothing would make me happier than to die at your hands.'
  • Similarly, Yukari from Family Compo is a transgender housewife who has a license and hasn't been behind the wheel in fifteen years. On the one occasion when she takes the car out, she winds up driving against traffic and jumping a barrier to get onto the right side of the road.
  • Subverted in Wangan Midnight when Yamamoto gives a highly tuned Skyline GT-R demo car with over 600bhp to resident chick Reina Akikawa to drive, his fellow tuner Gaa-chan starts to doubt her ability and Yamamoto's judgement. Reina then proceeds to show complete mastery of the car, no surprise since she has a highly tuned GT-R of her own.
  • Highly averted in Over Rev!, a manga similar to Initial D (street racing specializing in drifting), but with female protagonists.
  • Averted hard in Ah! My Goddess, all the best drivers/riders in the series (Chihiro, Megumi and Belldandy) are women. Even the American off road racing champion that Aoshima hired in one episode was a woman. The only notable male driver is Keiichi.
  • Subverted in Azumanga Daioh - while Yukari is the most dangerous driver on the face of the earth, no other women shown driving are depicted this way.
  • For the most part, this is averted in Sora no Woto, in which most of the female characters that do drive are competent at it, save for one instance in one of the bonus episodes for DVD, in which Kanata nearly crashes into a pillar and ends up driving down a flight of stairs with Yumina panicking beside her.
  • Averted in Ronin Warriors, Mia is actually very capable of driving (And is shown driving the team throughout the series and in the second OVA).
  • Subverted in You're Under Arrest, Natsumi's the only female shown to exhibit this "ability".
  • Another Aversion - Anthy in the Rather screwed up ending of The Adolescence of Utena.
  • Despite the page quote above, Gunsmith Cats averts this rather hard - the female protagonist, Rally Vincent, is an expert driver who loves powerful muscle cars like her beloved Shelby Cobra. Sure, she wrecks cars like no one's business, but that's because of the insane antics she gets into rather than her driving ability. The other exception is Riff Raff, who was on the recieving end of Bean Bandit's above diss on her driving. After slugging him in the face (where he commends her for throwing a punch that hurt more than a stun-gun), she promptly proves she's just as good as Rally.


Comedy


Comic Books

  • Seccotine in the Spirou and Fantasio album Le nid des Marsupilamis.
  • A frequent, frequent, frequent punchline to Archie Comics circa 1960. Arch was always afraid of lending Ol' Betsy out to Betty, for fear that she'd "drive like a woman" and somehow destroy it (more). Particularly funny considering Betty eventually evolved into a Wrench Wench and one of the only people who could successfully get Betsy running.


Film

  • Played with in Adam's Rib: Amanda is driving down a busy street and arguing heatedly with her husband about the Double Standard, and suddenly pulls over in front of a cabbie who grumbles about "lady drivers."
  • Viciously subverted in all of the The Fast and the Furious movies; some of the most badass (badassest?) drivers are women, and the men tend to respect them for that.
  • In Childs Play 2, Kyle drives so fast to force Chucky out. Then she tries to ram him, and Chucky grabs hold of the bumper shouting "Damn women drivers!".


Literature

  • In A Confederacy of Dunces, the plot begins because Ignatius' mother crashes into a historic French Quarter balcony, forcing him to get a series of jobs to pay for the damage. He repeatedly complains to her about this, which is made doubly annoying to her as she only hit it because he wouldn't shut up.
  • In The Great Gatsby, both female leads are awful drivers. One is so bad they eventually kill someone who runs out into the middle of the road. The other driver admits to being a bad driver and doesn't care at all about other people. Her bad driving is another example of her extreme selfishness!
  • Bella from Twilight is this played straight.
  • Ephraim Kishon's wife in his satirical stories.


Live Action TV

  • This trope was such a staple of old sitcoms that on at least one occasion, Nick at Nite devoted an entire marathon to episodes featuring bad women drivers.
  • Zig Zagged and Justified with Britain's Worst Driver and its international spinoffs: played straight in that the women are truly terrible, subverted in that the male contestants are no better, subverted the other way that judges are often women drivers who are anything from just fine to bona fide Badass Drivers, and justified in that the shows are Exactly What They Say On the Tins and literal Truth in Television.
  • An old Candid Camera prank invokes this trope by placing a car in a garage door in such a way that the frame of the door is only an inch away from the bumper. Then they had an attractive woman call a mechanic (or some other professional) to help her out before "Her husband comes back and see what she did to the car".
  • For all the stick they give to some people the hosts of Top Gear never say bad things about women drivers. In fact, they even had racing driver Sabine Schmitz coaching Jeremy Clarkson (in a Jaguar) round the Nurburgring, and then trouncing his lap time. Then in a later episode nearly beating his time in a Transit van. Having guest stars like Jennifer Saunders, Billie Piper, Jodie Kidd, and yachtswomen Ellen McArthur (who set the fastest lap in the old car) drive the Reasonably-Priced Car round the track quite rapidly also subverts this one rather nicely.
    • "Look at me, I'm a man in my Porsche... and then suddenly they're overtaken by a Van driven by a girl!" is how Richard Hammond described Sabine Schmitz's driving of the Ford Transit van around the Nurburgring.
      • Obvious but unstated was the fact that the TG team for some strange reason brought a right-hand drive van over from the UK for the German Schmitz to drive in Germany. And she still came within 10 secs. of Clarkson's Jag time. She's just that awesome.
        • Any professional road racer should be able to handle right-hand drive. In race cars the driving position often depends more upon weight distribution than traffic laws.
    • In one of the episodes after Jodie Kidd's appearance a photo of rock star Jay Kay's Ferrari Enzo was shown after someone wrote "Jodie was faster" on the hood.
      • Jodie later appeared in Clarkson's 2008 DVD special Thriller where she and Jezza raced around an abandoned nuclear power plat in two superminis.
    • Cameron Diaz was also the fastest driver in the Cee'd, for all of ninety seconds... until Tom Cruise absolutely demolished her time.
      • Though it was also revealed before her lap that she was also a rather good stunt driver with footage of her doing doughnuts with a car while Jezza was her passenger.
    • They've also been pretty critical of when the automotive world panders to or exploits women. On one occasion, Clarkson complained about a poll that asked not who was the best or fastest female driver in the world, but rather the sexiest. Slightly worryingly, James May came in tenth in said poll...
  • Top Gear's rival shot Fifth Gear has Vicki Butler-Henderson (who also used to be a presenter on the old version of Top Gear) happily averting this trope.
  • There was an episode of Leave It to Beaver where Ward was teaching June how to drive; the trope was referenced but not invoked, but it shows an example of learning to drive relatively late in life.
  • Mrs. Webb, the student in Bob Newhart's classic "Driving Instructor" routine.
  • Toshiko once accused the Torchwood team of not letting her drive because she is a woman, but it turns out that they barred her from the wheels because she is a lot shorter then the rest of the team, and they don't like to keep on readjusting the driver's seat and mirrors.

  Owen: Look, I've shared cars with women before and I know what'll happen. There'll be an emergency, we are all roaring to go, I jump in, what do I find? Seat's in the wrong position, the rear-view mirror's out of line, and the steering wheel's in my crotch. In the time it takes to sort it all out aliens will have taken Newport.

  • Look, Listen and Take Heed.
  • Fiona in Burn Notice has invoked this trope to create a distraction. Michael's monologue mentions taking advantage of other people's preconceptions in order to Obfuscate with Stupidity.
  • Always a goldmine of outmoded gender stereotypes, Home Improvement featured an episode in which Jill damaged a car by continuing to drive with the oil light on. When Tim confronted her about this, she claimed that she thought "it would blink, or a buzzer would go off" if it was serious. In another episode, she touches up a car's paint job with red nail polish.
  • Modern Family. Gloria gets into several car accidents in one episode and Haley has failed her driving test several times and runs over her father at one point. There's also a pediatrician who sucks but the joke is more based on her being Asian, not a woman.
  • Trina from Victorious although this could be because she's so egotistical that she thinks she's above the rules of the road.

 Cat: Trina, maybe you should pull over if you're going to put on lip gloss.

Trina: Maybe you should talk less.

Cat: That's what my dad always says!

    • And then after a driver honks at her...

 Trina: (Honks horn) YEAH, I GOT A HORN, TOO, BUDDY! (Honks horn again)

  • Deanna Troi developed this reputation. First, she is at the helm when the Enterprise crashes on Veridian III in Star Trek Generations. Later, she takes the helm just in time for Picard to order her to crash the ship into the bad guy in Star Trek Nemesis.
    • Parts of the novel Imzadi are set shortly after Generations. In it, Troi gets very tired of being teased with the phrase, "Nice landing."
      • (On the other hand, according to the Tech Manual, deorbiting a Galaxy-class saucer section had never been tried before, and it was generally regarded as extremely risky. "Minimal casualties" indicates some exceptional flying.)
    • Though maybe it's a Betazoid thing - the pilot flying Voyager in the first episode was a Betazoid, and we all know how well that turned out...
  • Thunderbirds mined this for humor more than once - Lady Penelope in particular was a frightening driver. The plot of the episode "City of Fire" began when a careless female motorist crashes her car in a parking garage and sets the entirety of the world's tallest building on fire. The end of the episode shows her alive, well, and once more driving like a maniac behind the wheel of another car.
    • A later episode of the series showed that Lady Penelope's driving skills had improved since the first time she tried it.
  • Sabrina the Teenage Witch is given a job driving a rich witch's Porsche. Naturally he comes home grateful he's still alive. Although justified since Sabrina is seventeen and doesn't own a car of her own yet.
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000, while sporking the 1950s driving safety film Last Clear Chance:

 Narrator: Another problem on our modern highways...

Mike Nelson: Women drivers!

Tom Servo: Oh no you didn't.

  • This trope makes a Bloody Hilarious appearance in the television show Mad Men, when a John Deere lawnmower is brought into the office. Everyone's having plenty of fun until a secretary jumps abroad and drives over the new executive's foot, crippling him for life. Possibly in combination with the constant drinking that is Sterling Cooper.
  • Laugh In had a joke about a feminist drive-a-thon being canceled, after all the participants got into their cars and promptly backed in to each other.
  • In The Office (US version) episode "Diversity Day", everyone is supposed to treat the others as the race named on a card stuck to their forehead. Dwight demands that Pam treat him as his new ethnicity (Asian), so he could figure out what it was.

 Pam: Okay, if I have to do this, based on stereotypes that are totally untrue and that I do not agree with, you would maybe... not be a very good driver.

Dwight: Aw, man! Am I a woman?

  • Lisa Douglas of Green Acres plays this trope straight in an episode where she's forced to go to high school, though her lack of driving skills comes less from the fact that she's a woman then the fact that she's... well, Lisa.
  • Tosh.0 devoted an entire segment to women drivers, specifically parallel parking. Two women managed to bump into the neighboring vehicles, one even asking in a bubbleheaded fashion, "Did I hit something?" One teenager who only had her learner's permit, though, completed the test successfully.
  • Shows up in Doctor Who, of all places. In "The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe", the 2011 Christmas special, the Doctor lands in 1938, wearing a space suit backwards, and is found by Madge Arwell. When Madge tries to drive the Doctor to the TARDIS, he comments that "We seem to bump into quite a lot of things" when she crashes to a stop. Her excuse: "Well, a lot of things get in the way, it's hardly my fault."
  • Taken to an extreme with Lori Grimes in The Walking Dead, who somehow manages to flip her car despite likely being the only person driving on the entire planet at that moment.
  • Addressed by the Myth Busters in a 2012 episode. They determined there was no meaningful difference between gender and driving competency.
  • The first time Lucy Ricardo gets behind the wheel of a car, she tries to make a U-turn in the Holland Tunnel.

 Ethel: Boy, that must have been something.

Lucy: Yeah... the police said the cars were backed up all the way to East Orange, New Jersey.

Music

  • Is featured in its full sexist glory in the aptly named Sheila's Wheels — a song by the English parody duo Amateur Transplants:

 If you want to leave your car alive,

Never let the woman drive!

Newspaper Comics

  • The Lockhorns still uses this. The real question is: are they newly drawn panels or simply endlessly recycled material from The Fifties?


Radio

  • The 40s-50s comedy series Our Miss Brooks used this at least once when the titular character drove her own car (which was not that often since her vehicle was usually broken down & in the shop). She got rides to school from one of her students, Walter, who sometimes mentioned how many mistakes his mother made while driving.
  • Alice in The Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show is often a scatterbrained driver. She has to do "eenie meenie miney moe" to tell which pedal is the clutch and once drove in between two streetcars, endingnup with a "tall, thin Chevrolet."


Video Games

  • Inverted with Youko in CROSS†CHANNEL, she seems to be able to drive competently while the males make a wreck out of the parking lot.
  • Yuka Suzuki of Racing Lagoon is a lone female racer of BLR, and she's the worst driver comparing to other males. This is subverted for the Queen team, though.
  • Some pieces of Fan Art for Mass Effect depict Female Commander Shepard as this, such as this piece.
    • This is more a joke about how nobody can drive the Mako in a straight line.
    • Averted in Mass Effect 2. The DLC "Lair of the Shadow Broker" features a short section where Shephard engages in a car chase with the antogonist. Apparently, going by the increasing panic of your companion in the passenger seat, Shephard is a terrifyingly reckless driver whether your character is male or female as the two voice actors receit the same lines throughout.
  • Ridge Racer depicts Reiko Nagase as a professional racer driving the Absoluta Fatala. Rena Hyami, an ambulance driver turned racer, is a straighter version.


Webcomics


Western Animation

  • Referenced in several Looney Tunes shorts, usually by Bugs Bunny: "I had the silly thing in reverse!"
  • In Disney's One Hundred and One Dalmatians, the man driving the moving van, which the dalmatians had hidden in, refers to Cruella as "crazy woman driver" when she tries to force him off the road during the climactic Chase Scene. (Of course, he didn't realize she was doing it on purpose.)
  • Benny the Cab from Who Framed Roger Rabbit? calls everyone he passes "lady", even though he is the one who Drives Like Crazy.
    • He might be adressing the cars themselves, though.
      • or they could've actually been women.
  • Tex Avery's The Car of Tomorrow has a gag about a garage that lifts up so that the little woman can park without crashing into it and another gag with a car equipped with speaking turning signals; when the woman is about to turn, it goes "Turning left... no, right... no, left..." Interestingly enough, a couple of politically incorrect gags were taken out of the cartoon when it aired on Cartoon Network, but the joke about women drivers was left in.
  • An episode of Disneyland devoted to the future of the freeway had a sequence of humorous suggestions for bettering the nation's highways. The very first one is having his and hers lanes. A car on the hers lane weaves out of control and crashes.
  • Referenced on The Simpsons in an episode where Homer reads a "Motoring Ms.-Haps" cartoon in Reading Digest. Marge tells him off for thinking there is any truth to the stereotype.
    • A parody of The Lockhorns?
    • Also referenced by Krusty the Clown, nostalgic for the days of "time tested jokes about doctor bills and women drivers"
  • Family Guy. Peter is blindfolded, but still drives. When Lois asks if she should drive, since she's not blindfolded, he laughs her off. Hilarity Ensues.
  • Referenced in Little Rascals. A female teacher is driving her brother, and when she brings the car to a hard stop he comments simple, "just another woman driver."
  • In an episode of The Jetsons, Jane goes in for her driver's license much to the horror of the driving instructor. When the instructor first sees Jane, he turns a dial on the "Student Driver" sign on the car that makes it read "Woman Student Driver: Beware". After Jane is forced by a bank robber to be his escape vehicle, the instructor professes concern for "that poor creature" -- not Jane, but the robber she's driving.
  • Possibly spoofed in the Johnny Bravo episode "My Date With an Antelope". The reason Johnny's date Carol (the titular antelope) can't drive is not because she's a woman (despite one surly cabbie's remark about "Crazy women antelope drivers!"), but because she doesn't have opposable thumbs.
    • In another gag, Johnny crashes while attempting to hit on a woman he's driving alongside. He blames woman drivers.
  • Inverted in SpongeBob SquarePants. Spongebob is the horrid driver and his driving instructor is a woman.
  • One episode of X-Men: Evolution had the other characters running in terror whenever Kitty was looking for someone to take her driving. She made Wolverine fear for his life when he took her.
    • Of course, it should be pointed out that her driving is likely less because she's a woman and more because she has absolutely no concern for traffic hazards since she's a mutant who can just phase through them.
    • Kitty tries to convince either Scott or Jean to ride with her because she has a learner's permit. It's Jean who shoves Scott at Kitty and runs off.


Web Animation

 Strong Bad: Say, Bubs, your comedy club bears a striking resemblance to the side of your concession stand.

Bubs: Aw, that's rich. You know something else that bears a striking resemblance to something else?

Strong Bad: I dunn--

Bubs: Women can't drive!


Real Life

  • An old joke: Why don't they let Helen Keller drive? Because she's a woman.
  • A "joke" that still rears its head on message boards whenever a female race car driver has an embarrassing incident -- like Danica Patrick hitting her pit crew at one race, then hitting someone's else crew a few races later. Considering male drivers like Paul Tracy used to make a habit of such minor incidents the double standard is pretty tired. Interestingly when Katherine Legge had a huge crash, splitting her Champ Car in half and emerging unharmed, there weren't any "LOL Women Drivers" comments, just a lot of compliments about her toughness.
    • Tellingly, Katherine Legge is not known just as much for looking extremely hot in a swimsuit as she is for being a racing driver. As such...regarding Danica specifically...HypeBacklash moving toward Hatedom, especially from many who despise the sexualizing of their chosen sport drug-of-choice.
    • Milka Duno is a standout example. At St. Petersburg, Florida, second race of the 2010 Indy Car season, she was five and a half seconds off the second slowest time...which was one and a half seconds off the fastest time. In a sport that has recently embraced several female drivers who possess quite a bit of talent, Duno is now causing the vast majority of fans to scream invectives at race control director Brian Barnhart, that he is allowing her on the track solely for Venezuelan CITGO sponsorship dollars.
      • People have been upset with Brian Barnhart's management of race control for years prior to Milka Duno's arrival. Duno being allowed on the track is just the most obvious example of why he needs to be removed.
    • Regarding Katherine Legge's crash not generating any comments about women drivers, even the most douchey person can't reasonably blame driving ability when a rear wing element broke off going into a non-banked flat-out corner. Unlike some crashes where the most skilled drivers would have a chance of saving the car, it was a matter where the best driver in the world would still have been going into that wall.
  • Similarly crops up in "humourous" captions on various "funny picture" websites, any time there is a ridiculous or improbable car accident in the image.
  • On one episode of Top Gear (Series 5, Episode 6), a relative unknown by the name of Billy Baxter asked to take a power lap in the Suzuki Liana. As Jeremy Clarkson explained, many, many people have so asked, but they answered this one because the guy was literally totally blind ... but still thought he could beat Richard Whitley's lap time. Long story short: he did - in fact, he beat Terry Wogan's time as well. ...and half the places where the video is published or linked online say, "Blind Man Beats Woman Driver", despite neither of those men being women.
  • This sexist birthday card relies on this as part of the punchline.
  • This trope was averted and subverted before it was even a trope. The first person to drive a car any real distance was Bertha Benz, wife of Karl Benz (generally regarded as the inventor of the automobile), in 1888. She successfully drove sixty miles and back, including making repairs to the car along the way. She also did this without telling her husband beforehand, so he couldn't try to stop her.
  • Any time there's a news report about distracted driving, they name down the usual suspects that distract drivers (talking on the phone, drinking coffee, changing the radio station) they also always explicitly mention putting on make-up, possibly because it's one of the worst offenders (with some of the others, you can at least halfway keep your eye on the road, but with make-up you have to look in the mirror to put it on,) and because it's one of the few distractions that almost solely performed by women.
  • Inverted by auto insurance rates, especially for young drivers. Male drivers are often charged a higher premium because they're overrepresented in severe crashes that are more likely to total the car or result in serious injury or death. Women do tend to get into more accidents, but the vast majority of these are just minor brush-ups that don't cost insurance companies as much.
  • Averted HARD with World Rally Championship driver Michèle Mouton. A real woman in a man's world in the late 80's era of Group B rallying. The swift Frenchwoman gained fame through driving for the Audi team. The Group-B cars were violent fire-breathing monsters that were able to go from 0-60 in under 3 seconds...On gravel. While she never won a championship title, she did win 4 rallies in which she went up against and defeated champions. She retired in 1986, only because the insane Group-B category folded due to tragic accidents. Since Mouton, there hasn't been any female drivers in top level rallying.
  • Parallel parking in a confined space really does appear to be slightly more difficult for women than men, due to neurological differences in the sexes' processing of spatial arrangements.
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