KOCHI: Driven by various reasons, more and more girls/women are getting behind the wheels of cars or start riding bi-wheelers in the state. The sight does not arouse one's curiosity any more. Unlike in the past, when women shied away from driving, the present-day folk --- be it students, professionals or homemakers --- find it convenient. The gearless vehicles have only spurred the growth in the trend.
The number of women getting driving licence in the state has grown five times in 2017 from the number in 2005. That is, if the number of women getting a driving license stood at 38,636 in 2005, the figure is as high as 1,91,443 in 2017, almost five times the figure 12 years back.
In the case of men, the number is still high but they are growing at a slower pace -- 249,890 new licence holders in 2005 while it stands at 348,443 in 2017, a growth of nearly 40 per cent.
According to the Motor Vehicle Department (MVD), the total number of women drivers in Kerala stood at 15,63,783, up 47.30 per cent since 2005 while for men it is at 68,49,583, growing at a slower 24.46 per cent in the same period. Every year, there's an increase in the number of women approaching me to join driving classes, said Rajeevan, who has been running a driving school at Tripunithura for the past 20 years.
Joint Transport Commissioner Rajeev Puthalath said increasing number of them joining work in various sectors --- some with odd shift timing --- and hassles of public transportation system are prompting women to take licence. Take IT professionals for example. Considering their timings, it's always easier for them to reach their workplace in own vehicles, said Puthalath.
But then, it's not just professionals who make up the number.
"My husband is a naval officer and I can't rely on him when it comes to doing daily shopping. I used to wait for him earlier, but I took licence two years ago and life has become easier for me and our kids", said Diya Mariam, a homemaker.
And women are now considered safe drivers, obeying rules. Women generally drive safely compared to men and they mostly don't break rules. They aren't known for rash driving or speeding. The more women drivers, the safer will be our roads, said Puthalath.
Anupa Renjith, a Chengannur native now residing in Visakhapatnam, pointed out a reason for it. "In Kerala, we're actually taught well compared to other states. While you can manage a licence in lesser time in other states, instructors in Kerala give the 'learners' more time on the roads, teaching them."
MVD officers said most accidents in the state are caused by men vis-a-vis women, but then it may also be due to the fact that the former are still an overwhelming majority on the roads. Last year saw 38,470 cases of accidents, 4,131 deaths and 42,671 injured in road accidents in the state.
Traffic West, Assistant Commissioner M A Nazir said, "It's a simple road culture that the drivers have to follow while driving. Compared to men, women usually follow a safe path. Women drivers are less rash and around 60 per cent of the accidents are caused by speeding two-wheelers and four-wheelers, also killing the pedestrians. Men and women should follow traffic rules for a safe journey."
Sanjitha Salem, a city resident, said, "I've been driving for four years in Kochi, and I find many expert women drivers on the busy roads of Kochi. I get glares and looks from men if I overtake them, yet things have changed a lot for women drivers now. It will give more girls/women the confidence to join driving schools."