Four in ten women are afraid to drive alone at night

·6-min read
Four in ten women feel afraid to drive after dark. (Getty Images)
Four in ten women feel afraid to drive after dark. (Getty Images)

The fear women feel while walking home alone has been much discussed this year, particularly in light of the murder of Sarah Everard, but it seems women are also pretty scared of driving alone at night. 

Over four in ten women (41%) say they avoid driving alone at night in case they break down somewhere and become vulnerable, while half admit feeling uncomfortable walking to and from their vehicle after dark. 

And it is not just night driving that makes female drivers feel intimidated, the average female reports facing sexism on the road at least three times a month, which adds up to 36 negative experiences a year.

According to the survey, of 1,500 women, by MFG (Motor Fuel Group), the UK’s largest independent forecourt operator 62% of women drivers have been tailgated or had lights flashed at them, 44% have had sexist insults shouted at them while out on the road, and almost a third (31%) have experienced drivers revving their engine suggestively while waiting side-by-side at traffic lights.

Read more: 'A third' of women have experienced sexual harassment at tech conferences

A worrying 14% of women say they have also had their car followed by a driver who caught their eye at the lights, and a further 14% have had a motorist try to get them to open their door.

Shockingly, a fifth (20%) of the women polled said they have been the victim of violence or theft while driving.

Women are afraid to drive alone at night for fear of breaking down and feeling vulnerable. (Getty Images)
Women are afraid to drive alone at night for fear of breaking down and feeling vulnerable. (Getty Images)

Read more: Women share how they protect themselves while out running

This fear of driving at night is leading to women taking some drastic measures to ensure they get home safely in their car with almost a quarter (24%) admitting to deliberately driving faster than they should in order to get home quicker.

While almost half (49%) say they always lock their doors at traffic lights in case someone tries to get into the car.

Overall, concerns about their safety made over half (57%) of women drive less than they would like to, while a quarter (23%) admit their fears have completely put them off driving alone.

Commenting on the findings William Bannister, CEO at MFG says: “These results show there are times when women feel vulnerable when driving, particularly at night, a trend which will be amplified as the winter nights draw in."

Turns out driving on their own at night isn't the only everyday activity women are feeling scared to do, a recent YouGov Realtime survey has uncovered a whole wealth of scenarios that are making women unsafe. that the majority of British women have felt unsafe undertaking these everyday activities.

Women reported feeling unsafe more often than men across every single one of the 15 scenarios put to the survey participants including waiting in a pub by yourself, going on a first date and having a tradesperson in your home. 

The largest difference between genders on a scenario in terms of “never” feeling unsafe was seen in getting into a taxi or ride-share car alone. 

While 53% of men said that they’ve never felt unsafe doing so, this figure falls to just 15% of women – a difference of 38 percentage points.

A similar chasm exists between the genders when it comes to being home alone with a tradesperson: 59% of men say this has never made them feel at risk, compared to only 22% of women. 

And while half (48%) of men say they’ve never felt unsafe on a first date, this figure falls to just 13% of women.

With the fear of sexual assault a concern for many women, almost a third (32%) admitted to taking steps on a regular basis to protect themselves from being sexually assaulted, compared to just 9% of men who regularly take measures to protect themselves from the same risk. 

Some of the steps women are taking to try and keep themselves safe include avoiding being alone (31%), avoiding certain areas (28%) and avoid being out at certain times (21%) – often these responses were given in combination, for example not walking home alone after dark.

Watch: Putting the spotlight on women’s safety

Turns out women are concerned about exercising alone too with just 18% admitting to never feeling unsafe while doing so compared to 44% of their male counterparts.

Meanwhile a separate survey, of 1,438 women, by Golfsupport.com revealed women are feeling fearful about joining a gym. Over three quarters (78%) of women say they fear being harassed during their workouts, with one in three women saying they’d prefer to go to a women’s only gym.

The fear of being harassed isn’t born out of nowhere, either. Nearly half (40%) could note a time where they had their picture taken, were ogled, touched, stared at or approached at the gym.

Read more: Police force advises women not to exercise alone

Exercising alone is another everyday activity women are afraid to do. (Getty Images)
Exercising alone is another everyday activity women are afraid to do. (Getty Images)

What can be done to make women feel safer?

So what do we do to ensure everyone feels comfortable undertaking everyday activities where safety should be taken for granted?

Ellie Gibson, one half of @Scummymummies, who penned the powerful analogy 'Not all sharks' in the wake of Sarah Everard's murder previously told Yahoo UK she believes change will need to come from the structure of society and the state.

"Cities and public spaces do need to be better designed around women," she says. "We need to think about street lighting and we need to think about, do we need to compensate women, or price the right sort of safe means of transport that's affordable for women or free.

"Because it's all very well saying it's dangerous to walk home on your own, but if you can't afford a cab, or if you have to get from the bus stop to your house, and it's 200 metres, what are you going to do?

"So we're gonna have to bring in some fundamental changes in everything from town planning to the way we behave at work."

Rose Caldwell, CEO for Plan International UK agrees that more needs to be done to ensure women feel safer.

“All women and girls should feel safe in public spaces, yet they still continue to face harassment every day. They’re being followed, shouted at, touched and groped – and it needs to stop," she previously told Yahoo UK.

"That is why our #CrimeNotCompliment campaign with Our Streets Now, calls upon the government to establish a clear law that criminalises all forms of public sexual harassment and protects the rights of girls to a life lived without fear.

“Currently, there is no UK law that fully criminalises public sexual harassment, leaving perpetrators to get away with it. As one girl told us, you can be fined for dropping litter in the UK, but not for harassing a woman or girl in public. This cannot be right. Only by enacting legal change will we start to see a cultural shift, so that girls and women will finally begin to feel safe in public spaces.”

Watch: Girls Night In: Nightclub boycott to highlight drink spiking

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