Of the total (professional and non-professional) driving licenses issued in Karnataka in 2022-23, only 12.56 percent were issued to women. This suggests that even though more women are forefront of the workforce, fewer women have control on wheels.
The number of women driving commercial vehicles continues to be dismal in Karnataka. Of the total 49,836 professional driving licenses issued in Financial Year (FY) 2022-23, in the state, only 382 licenses were issued to women, which is less than one percent of the total licenses.
The state now has 5.3 percent (1,04,760) professional female drivers. The numbers aren’t any better when it comes to the national average.
Statistics show that the overall cumulative valid driver licenses in India in 2020 was over 236 million, out of which 6.8 percent were female drivers. There was also a considerable increase in the number of registered vehicles during the measured time period.
Also as per statistics collected in India by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, fewer women than men are responsible for road accidents and the fatalities caused by them. As per the data by Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, in 2021, the share of women drivers in getting into road accidents was 14.4 percent while it was 85.6 percent in their male counterparts.
Organizing Secretary of the Auto rickshaw Driver’s Union (ARDU) in Bangalore, Pattabhirama, said “More women are willing to drive autos nowadays but the numbers are still very less. Of the total one lakh legally registered autos with the union, only around 200 are run by women.”
Research done in 2008 on women drivers suggests that “women who were reminded of the stereotype that females are poor drivers were more than twice as likely to collide with jaywalking pedestrians than women who were not reminded of this stereotype.”
Nagalakshmi, 41 years old, auto driver in Bangalore said, “I have been driving an auto since the last four years and work on an 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. shift. I also have to manage household-work and kids along with driving. I drive for online applications like Ola and Rapido. I feel safer because these apps ensure genuine passengers.”
More women attempt a test for a driving license in metropolitan cities but the ratio is almost negligible in tier 2 and tier 3 cities.
In metropolitan cities like Delhi and Bangalore, women operated cab services are blooming. Go Pink Cabs, Taxshe and other such conglomerates have come up in the last decade.
Chandana L, 22 years old, cab driver with Pink Cabs, has been driving since the age of 18. She says she has overcome her fears and is now confident to drive. She encourages other women to take up the steering wheel and earn their living.
However, the situation is completely the reverse in countries like US, UK, Australia and Canada where there are more female drivers than men. In UK, for instance, the percentage of licensed female drivers is 49.95 while in the US the share is 51 percent.
Bhuvana Suresh from Association Of Women Entrepreneurs Of Karnataka (AWAKE) said, “Women who are willing to drive must be given support by the government. To drive at night, women need to feel safe on roads. This could be possible with features like Global Positioning System (GPS) and other safety measures. We, at AWAKE are also working on a project. With help of government we are coming up with Regional Drivers Training Institute exclusively for women.”