Asian drivers

It is, I think, as entrenched a stereotype as that relating to women drivers: Asian drivers are poor drivers, to be given a wide berth, drivers we don't want in front of us, behind us or next to us. And my bells ring more loudly when I'm on my bike.

But what's this! Sydney University researchers claim that young Australians born in Asia are significantly safer than Australian drivers born everywhere else. Their crash risk is half that of Australia-born drivers. The researchers used answers from 21,000 P-platers aged to 25 and crash reports provided by police to arrive at a startling result few people would be prepared to believe!

I mean, not only have we seen the madness that passes as traffic in Asia's capital cities, we've had experiences with Asian drivers in Australia. The driving of men wearing hats, lady bowlers in their whites and women in general is seriously competent by comparison.

So how could there be such a gap between the stereotype and the research result? Well, it's this that especially interests me, and a credible answer has been provided by a Sydney clinical psychologist, Jeroen Decates. In a Sydney newspaper's report of the research into the driving of different ethnic groups, Mr Decates explains why a stereotype can be self-perpetuating. We are more likely, he says, to note that a poor driver is of an Asian background if this is evidence for the stereotype we hold. We are always, he says, looking for confirmation of our beliefs. I suppose, too, that drivers of Asian stock are more readily identifed and grouped than, say, drivers of British stock. It may be meaningless to stereotype Caucasian people as bad drivers, and if that is the case it should be as meaningless, I suppose, to do the same for Asian people.

But all the psychology, all the stats, all the research adds up to nought when we're stuck behind an Asia driver. Perhaps, like women drivers, it's the chaos they leave in their wake that is the problem.

What are your driving stereotypes? Do you accept that you may be perpetuating these unfairly?