I have never considered myself a good driver. Right the opposite. I would always be afraid of high-speed, busy roads, and most of all, parking. I gave up driving after moving to a big city where I could conveniently move around by public transport or bike. I actually think having a car in a big city is a sort of a handicap. You always get stuck in traffic. You spend more money on gasoline than on a train ticket. And you also have to purchase a parking permit or rent a garage. So I just gave up driving to now that I’m back in a small town realize that I needed a car again. Or, better said, that I had to freshen my driving skills.
What I saw the other day will blow your mind. This little red car passed my house and read: ‘Refresher driving courses for women.’ That was what I was looking for. But a bit later, a question came to my mind: Are we, by we, I mean women, really such bad drivers to have our own driving school?
No, of course not. A recent study in Injury Prevention even revealed that women are, in fact, safer drivers than men. And I believe so. As I said, I always drive slow and with loads of precautions. I think that those qualities might somehow be considered unfavorable. We need to relax a bit and drive with confidence. That’s maybe why those refresher courses exist — to give women a unique attitude and to give them courage. The lessons don’t sound like a bad idea after all.
All those statements are a little too generalized. So I’d now better like to talk about something else. I’d like to point out that a woman actually underwent the first long-distance trip in an automobile. Let me present Bertha Benz, a German automotive pioneer and inventor.
Yes, you got it right. Bertha was the wife and business partner of Karl Benz, the creator of the Benz Patent-Motorwagen, the world’s first production automobile. On the early morning of August 5, 1888, Bertha took the prototype of the vehicle and, along with her two sons, set off on a 104 km ride from Mannheim to Pforzheim. It wasn’t just a family trip to Bertha’s birth town but also a test drive to encourage and prove to her husband that his vehicle was an effective invention.
On their way, they had to stop for ligroin, as petrol was known for the time. It used to be sold in pharmacies. And so they called at an apothecary in Wiesloch, which still operates today and is considered the world’s first gas station. She also came up with the idea of the brake lining. The brake shoes wore out quickly, and so she stopped in Bauschlott on the way back and had a cobbler cover them with leather.
The journey was a huge success. Not only did Bertha Benz demonstrate to her husband that there was a big future ahead for the automobile, but she also convinced the skeptical public.
Based on the test drive, the car was given another gear and more effective braking. In 1889, Benz Patent Motor Car Model III made it to the World’s Fair in Paris. And by 1894, 25 more vehicles had been built. With 572 units produced in 1899, Benz soon became the largest automobile company in the world.
So what is it with women behind the wheel? Next time you hear someone saying that ladies are bad drivers, tell them about Bertha, the innovative automobilist of the 19th century. Break the stereotypes. Prove them wrong.