I’ve been doing some long-distance driving in the last couple of weeks (I’ve probably done 12 hours in the last week or so – mostly motorway but then slower bits finding places either end) . And something has kind of finally clicked for me – about 4 years after first getting my driver’s licence – driving is starting to become something I’m properly comfortable with and feel capable of, rather than a skill that I do have, but don’t practice nearly often enough (being eco-conscious and going driving just to practice being difficult things to reconcile).
(Learning to drive and then going away to University and driving very little for 3 years doesn’t help with becoming fully comfortable with driving.)
It’s made me start thinking about how driving is often associated with independence and agency, and with a coming of age. Yeah, it is liberating to realise that for pretty much the cost of the petrol, I can go places I wouldn’t otherwise be able to (and be warm and dry in the process – as opposed to sitting around on cold train stations, for example). Sure.
But driving isn’t a right, and it isn’t a requirement in life. I certainly wouldn’t want to see driving equated with liberation or independence – does that imply that if you can’t drive, you’re oppressed?
I think, for me, being able to drive has been most useful because it’s starting to change how I can do things for other people. I can take my sister to the supermarket or pick up family from the airport and things like that. It’s not about “before I had to depend on other people to do XYZ and now I can do it for myself”, if anything it’s slightly more “now I can help other people do XYZ”. I guess that’s partly because I’ve always lived in places with fairly decent public transport links (and with a reasonable number of places within walking distance), so I’ve usually been able to get places myself – sure, it might be a long and somewhat awkward journey (waiting for buses that don’t show up …) – but it’s possible.
… and because this post is supposed to contain some actual knowledge, here are a few facts:
- if you Google “driving facts UK” you get LOADS of thinks about drinking and driving rather than just about driving …
- The proportion of households in Great Britain with access to a car increased from 52 per cent to 75 per cent between 1971 and 2007. Over the same period, the proportion of households without access to a car almost halved, from 48 per cent to 25 per cent (source)
- In 2007, 43 per cent of households in London did not own or have access to a car compared with 31 per cent in other built-up metropolitan areas and 10 per cent in rural areas (source same as above)
- As of 2001: More men than women hold full car driving licences in Great Britain, 82 per cent compared with 60 per cent in 1999-2001. However, women have been catching up for a number of years. Between 1975-76 and 1999-2001, while the number of men holding a licence rose by nearly a third to 17.6 million, the number of women holding a licence more than doubled to 14.0 million (source)
- the proportion of the youngest age groups holding licences has fallen over the last decade – 52 per cent of men aged 17-20 held a licence in 1989-91, compared with 41 per cent in 1999-2001 … Test pass rates were 47 per cent among men and 40 per cent among women in 2002/03, compared with 56 and 46 per cent, respectively, in 1992 (source same as above)
- … and Women’s Hour on BBC Radio 4 is definitely the best soundtrack for motorway driving. Okay, maybe this isn’t a fact … maybe this is just me.
Do you drive? Did you find learning to drive to be a liberating experience? What do you like to listen to – if anything – whilst driving?