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This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Tue, May 31, 2005

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

Gillian Tan's Asian women drivers spoof has made the Internet rounds DWA: DRIVING WHILE ASIAN

Does the Stereotype Match the Reality?

One of our LA Car road warriors teaches Asian American studies at Pasadena City College. On this lazy afternoon, she was driving her turbocharged (and chipped) VW a little on the slow side. The hot rodder behind her was getting impatient. Finally, it pulls up next to her and the young passenger in the car shouts out, "Asian driver!" The professor looks over and smiles. She took it as a compliment ("hey, they called me Asian, and not oriental or chink or worse"), but the guy in the other car didn't mean it as a compliment.

On another day, one of our editors was talking to his attorney. The attorney's Asian American wife had just gotten into an accident in the San Gabriel Valley. The attorney laments, "Both drivers are guilty of DWA." No, it's not driving with alcohol. In this case, DWA stands for Driving While Asian. The "Driving While" term as it applies to ethnic groups has its roots in the racial profiling of African and Latin Americans. Although the term is sometimes used to describe the profiling of Asian street gangs, DWA is more commonly used as a stereotype of poor driving behavior by Asians - particularly Asian women.

As folklore has it, this latter use of DWA stems from the migration of non-driving middle-aged Asian women into this country. Once here, they were forced to learn how to drive in our car-dependent society. Those who propagate the stereotype insist that this represents a disproportionately high number of Asians in America. In reality, the number of first-time driving middle-aged Asian American women is relatively small compared to the overall population of Asian Americans. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, roughly 30 percent of the Asian population in the United States are immigrant women - and a good many of these are under the age of 25. If DWA is running rampant in the community, someone forgot to tell Nadine Toyoda. The Arcadia, California-raised Asian woman road racer, auto-crosser, and mother is recognized as one of the top sports car exhibition drifters in the country. Toyoda, along with her female colleague Yoshie Shuyama, founded Drifting Pretty, the nation's first all-female drifting team. They also forgot to tell champion drag-racer Lisa Kubo of Rosemead, California. Kubo likes to take her front-wheel drive Honda from zero to nearly 170 miles per hour in less than nine seconds. A recent University of Toronto-Stanford University study examined the impact of traffic citations. Among the findings: Compared to men, women are involved in far fewer fatal traffic accidents. The California Department of Motor Vehicles also says women are involved in far fewer accidents in general, but they cite the fact that men drive more miles as a contributing factor. The DMV also says teen drivers have far more accidents than middle-aged women or men - and being young and male are the greatest risk factors for predicting your likelihood of being involved in a future accident. The bottom line: There is no credible statistical information to corroborate the existence of DWA. This is not to say that there are no Asian women in need of more skill behind the wheel. However, the jury is still out whether the numbers proportionately exceed that of the general population. - Roy Nakano This article first appeared as a piece on the LA Car Blog.

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