AS she strolls along Ruzawi Road in central Marondera, Juanita Mapangela is a role model to many as she has become one of the few women, if any, to drive a school bus in Mashonaland East province.
BY JAIROS SAUNYAMA
A number of organisations have been recruiting female drivers as they are believed to be more cautious on the road than their male counterparts.
“Women are better drivers as compared to men. Male drivers seem to be reckless on the road. They lack seriousness,” Mapangela said.
The number of women with class 2 driver’s licences has gone up with most of them anticipating to take up the challenge of being behind the wheel of a truck or bus. Statistics show that road accidents have been claiming an average of 2 000 lives annually, with human error cited as the major cause. Speeding and overtaking errors have resulted in these high incidences of accidents.
A total of 15 road accidents, killing an average of five people, occur everyday. The fight against road carnage has been on for sometime with the latest suggestion being the recruitment of female drivers in the public transport sector to avoid carnage on the roads.
Gender activist Marjory Svisva said female drivers were naturally more observant, thus the risk of accidents was minimal when they were on the wheel.
“It would be right to say women are more careful, sober and patient than men. This reduces the risk of accidents especially when one may have the right of way, but needs to be patient. While the presence of more female drivers does not guarantee the reduction in accidents, I believe fatalities may be reduced to a certain extent,” she said.
“Most women drivers tend to observe the law… With the required training and exposure women drive smarter than men.”
According to government statistics, at least 22 Zupco buses have been involved in road accidents between January and March this year, claiming 13 lives while at least 50 male drivers have failed retests.
CMED boss Davison Mhaka said more than 20 male-driven buses have been involved in road accidents so far across the country.
“Recently, we had to intervene after the spate of accidents at Zupco. There were 22 accidents. Three were fatal and we lost 13 innocent lives. Easy-Go had to retest all the 113 Zupco drivers in a short period of time, only 64 passed the first time and the rest are being subjected to theory and practical tests. Those that fail to make the grade will have their contracts terminated,” he said.
Recently, First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa challenged women to take up challenging jobs, for example, driving public service vehicles.
“Women are able to compete for jobs that are done by men despite their biological make-up. We are worried by the spate of road accidents countrywide and I am convinced women can play a big role in reducing these,” she said.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), over 1,2 million people die each year on the world’s roads while about 50 million suffer non-fatal injuries. In Zimbabwe, 63% of the people who die in road accidents are passengers in motorised vehicles while 26% are pedestrians.
Traffic Safety Council of Zimbabwe spokesperson Tatenda Chinoda said male drivers dominated numbers in fatal road accidents, hence the need to promote female drivers.
“Our fatal accident statistics in Zimbabwe have revealed that male drivers are predominantly being involved in these fatal crashes,” he said.
“All the national disasters we have experienced as a country since 1980, like the Regina Coeli, Mhunga and King Lion bus disasters among others, involved male drivers. It is universally acknowledged that women have a softer touch in terms of caring.”
Chinoda, however, noted that few women drove public buses and that curbing the scourge of road accidents needed new strategies.
“We need to promote women as drivers because of the caring nature they have. Some of the errors committed by male drivers on the roads can be contained by the women,” he said. It is reported that a number of male drivers are usually drunk while on the roads and this has not been curbed due to the absence of breathalysers on most highways.
However, with authorities mulling to employ new strategies to deal with the scourge, the employment of women as public service drivers will work for the better inasfar as averting road carnage is concerned.