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Give van drivers a break

Leering drivers, bad driving and dirty vans; time to drop the stereotype

Feature by Conor Faughnan (published in The Sunday World, 29/03/15)

White Van    Conor Faughnan

One of the joys of modern motoring is it gives us a great deal to grumble about. People love to complain. It’s a great staple of small talk, like the weather.

Potholes, penalty points and what’s going on with petrol. And we can all have opinions on how other people drive.
There are all sorts of stereo-types about drivers. Very often they are rubbish. There may be some people who love to believe that all young males are thrill seekers or there is no such thing as a woman who can parallel park but it is not true.

Van drivers get quite a bit of this it seems. Sexist men who drive aggressively and think they own the road. Grumpy, busy and impatient consumers of jumbo-breakfast rolls.

It has been such a cliché over the years that they even have their own slang term “White Van Man ,” which if I borrow from Wikipedia, defines him as a smaller-sized commercial van driver, perceived as selfish, inconsiderate, mostly working class and aggressive.

While it’s true many of them may be men in a hurry when they are working, surely as with all stereotypes, it’s just plain unfair to tarnish them all with the same dirty paint brush.  Yet seemingly it’s something that many of their fellow road users still do.

Perhaps I’m a tad biased however given the number of van driving Patrols the AA have on the road but we decided to take a look.
Following a suggestion from one of our van insurance customers, himself an electrician, we recently quizzed a sample of 9,500 motorists to see what they thought of the typical van driver.   The findings more or less confirmed that the stereotype is there; more than half of Irish drivers feel van drivers are an aggressive bunch.   40% said they were reckless overall.

The bottom line is that our society and our economy depend on van drivers so isn’t it about time we banish the clichés and celebrate rather than criticize?  Just like the rest of us motorists, they come in all shapes and sizes and supply a wide range of skills.  They’re the people behind the fresh produce in your local convenience store, the ones who arrive on your door step to fix your broken boiler when it’s freezing out and the ones who know how to rewire your house.

As for their dirty vans, perhaps that’s just par for the course for the ones whose day jobs take them to dusty building sites.  However I do notice plenty of pristine vans driving around our streets too.  Particularly those which are branded. 

On this note, just for fun we asked 35 of our van insurance customers how often they wash their vans.  While they’re not quite cats, 21 did state that their van gets a good wash atleast once a month.  Just 2 said they exclusively leave the task up to our rainy weather.
In conclusion, my final words on the matter are this; give our hard working van drivers a break.  While you might come across the odd Neanderthal among them I’m pretty sure they’re the exception rather than the rule.

I salute you Mr. White Van Man or Woman. 


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