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She's on the road and multitasking Add to ...

When Lisa Fielding gets behind the wheel, she's a woman with a plan.

On a typical afternoon, the Madeira Park, B.C., mother first drives to daycare to pick up her rambunctious three-year-old, Tyson. From there, she pit-stops at the grocery store, the post office, the video store and the local coffee shop - a five-stop trip - before she finally returns home.

All in an afternoon's work for Ms. Fielding, but a marvel of logistics to the average male.

"He's always taking random trips from A to B, A to B," says Ms. Fielding of her live-in boyfriend. "I'm definitely a little more of a planner."

A new study suggests Ms. Fielding is not alone in her propensity for planning. Female drivers are more likely than males to make multiple stops during a single car trip, according to a Statistics Canada study released yesterday.

The study examined trip chaining - the practice of stopping at multiple points during a single car trip - and found that 45 per cent of all the car trips men make involve just one stop, a number that drops to 39 per cent for women. On more complex trips involving three or more stops, women drivers outnumber men by a ratio of around 3 to 2.

"That doesn't surprise me in the slightest," Ms. Fielding says. "Any woman with a kid knows it's not easy to just get up and go in a flash. Not when you have to wrestle a three-year-old into a car seat."

The study points to some key differences between male and female drivers, but experts warn against gleaning any sweeping "Men are from Mars" conclusions about the differing psyches of men and women.

"Much of this could be attributed to the kinds of traditional arrangements that still exist in many households," says Elizabeth Ridgely, a couples therapist and lecturer at the University of Toronto.

"The woman of the house still has a shopping list in her head that's three times as long as the man's. She's still the list keeper.

More men are willing to do the grocery shopping these days, but often it's only when a woman has given him a list."

The study results also hint that female drivers could be better for the environment than their male counterparts. Governments and environmental advocates have recently begun promoting trip chaining as a way of cutting down on greenhouse-gas emissions.

By condensing a number of destinations into a single excursion, motorists can trim the total distance they drive in a day and the amount of carbon dioxide their cars spew into the atmosphere.

"People too seldom stop to think about the impact of their driving habits on the environment," says Raynald Marchand, general manager of programs at the Canada Safety Council, that recently designed a green driving course that teaches Canadian motorists how to cut down on CO2 emissions.

"If you plan all your stops in a circuit, it's definitely much better for the environment."

Statscan researchers Gord Baldwin and Sean Fagan collected the gender numbers from the 2005 Canadian Vehicle Survey, which randomly sampled 21,915 vehicles across the country.

Even though he helped put together the green driving course and taught driving courses himself for years, Mr. Marchand admits that even he could learn a few things from the female drivers of the world.

"Yes, perhaps I'm guilty of making trips for a single stop," he says. "If I need one thing, I go get one thing. I can't help it. I'm the type of person who finds going window shopping about as exciting as watching paint dry."

*****

According to a Statistics Canada report released yesterday, women drivers are more likely than male drivers to make complex trips involving multiple stops for errands.

MEN

45% of male drivers make no stops on their way to work.

If they do make a stop during their commute, 62% get a meal or a coffee - the " Starbucks effect."

Almost 80% of men drive straight home after work.

WOMEN

More than 20% of women drivers make three or more stops during a single car trip.

During the morning and evening commutes, women are more likely than men to make stops at daycare, the bank and the shopping centre.

SOURCE: STATISTICS CANADA

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