The roads have never been a safe place for women. Some of the major challenges to the safety of women center around travelling alone. Along with their phones and bags, they also carry their fear and pepper spray, every time they step out of the house. And while women using public transport have their fair share of frustrating problems, the situation is no better for women who drive.
We sat down to have a talk with some of the women at Rollr, and our parent company, Samvardhana Motherson. We talked to women who drive to the office every day, in an attempt to understand the challenges. And here’s what they worry about, as they drive through the city:
The Phone Calls
“If I’m driving back from work after dark, my phone never stops ringing,” says Seema, one of our team members.
It’s always a worried parent wanting to know where they are, if they are stuck somewhere, and when will they reach home. Inevitably, these conversations end with, “Why can’t you just get out of the office early?”
And the fact is, women do understand these concerns that their families have. They know that staying out late comes with a risk. But they also state that they cannot build a career with a curfew hanging over their heads.
They point out the fact despite owning a vehicle, they do not have the freedom to safely get around the city after dark.
Breaking Down in the Middle of the Road
We know cars break down once in a while. But when a woman’s car breaks down, especially at night, it’s double trouble.
The first is, of course, the fact that they have to figure out a way to fix the car and get going. This part is often complicated by the incessant worried phone calls from the parents because now they are even more late.
The second is the fear. All the women we talked to emphasized the fact that they will think twice before stepping out of their car and asking someone for help. There’s this feeling of utter helplessness because they are now an easy “target” and their getaway vehicle is out of order.
The “Bad Driver” Tag
This one is quite apparent – from the judgemental and irritated stares women receive every time they are a second late restarting their car or taking a turn. It’s evident in casual jokes we make, poking fun at women’s ability to drive.
“I don’t know where this comes from because women are actually more responsible while driving”, says another frustrated team member.
Of course, we cannot generalize with a statement. We are sure there are several women who cannot drive well or indulge in rash driving. But that’s just bad driving skills and has got nothing to do with the gender.
Priyanka, Digital Marketing Manager at Rollr, says, “I would really appreciate if the driving population just accepted that women can drive just as well as men, and stop assuming the worst every time they see a woman behind the wheel.”
Scary Parking Lots
Parking lots can be confusing for a lot of people, but it’s also potentially dangerous for women. There are fewer people around and too many dimly lit corners.
For Rekha, “It would still be bearable if I could just walk straight to my car and get inside. But that doesn’t always happen because it’s sometimes difficult to remember where I parked my car. Every corner looks the same and it’s easy to lose the way. And wandering around there trying to search my car is definitely NOT a good adventure.”
So even the simple task of finding your car in a parking lot can become an unsafe task.
And while individually these look like small problems, they all point to a larger problem – women cannot feel completely safe even when driving their own cars.
So what do women do?
Some of these challenges to the safety of women can be solved by technology. A car tracking device like the Rollr Mini – which is a GPS tracking device for cars and also keeps you updated on vehicle health – can be a huge help for women who drive. It helps with calming anxious parents by letting them know where you are, or making sure a car malfunction does not hit you out of the blue.
There’s also the Rollrscore feature, which gives you a score based on how well you drive. It helps you improve your car’s mileage, and you can wave your high score in the face of anyone who says women are bad drivers!
But technology cannot do away with the fear. We understand when a team member says, “My mother will still worry a little and ask me to not drive after dark. I will still hesitate to ask for help on a lonely road.”
Technology can solve the problems, to an extent, but it cannot erase the fear. That will go away only when we accept that women have a right to be in public places – the roads, the parks, the bus stops – alone, and after dark. This acceptance might look like a long way off, but maybe every conversation, every discussion on the topic brings us an inch closer to it.
And till that happens, we are working to build the best solution that technology has to offer.