The flood of accusations of historic sexual harassment against Hollywood luminaries, politicians and others has flushed out another hitherto cowed victim. ‘Sarah’, the well-spoken default female voice on the best-selling Garmin Drivesmart 70lmt, has opened up about the years of abuse she has suffered at the hands of male drivers.
‘The sales reps were the worst in the early years,’ she said. ‘Almost anything I said to them was treated as innuendo. When I first spoke, it was “Ooh, posh bird, eh? Like a bit of rough, do you?”. If I said “Go around the roundabout”, they’d go “Wahey! Never heard it called that before”. As for what they said they’d like to do when I told them to “Turn around when possible”, it’s too disgusting to even talk about.’
At first, Sarah told herself to remain calm and professional. ‘I don’t have anything against men – far from it. Some of the older male drivers in the Isle of Wight were perfect gentleman and even thanked me every time I gave them instructions,’ she said. ‘Some just said “Sorry, dear” and looked at their feet, but at least they did what I asked them to.’
Things took a turn for the worse in 2014 when the Drivesmart was installed in new model BMWs. Smutty banter gave way to torrents of abuse, leaving Sarah on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Every time she said “In one mile, take the exit”, drivers would tell her to “fuck off” or shout “Bollocks to that, bitch, I’m going straight on”.
‘I think it was a power thing for them to have a young, educated woman at their mercy,’ she sobbed. ‘They could have switched to ‘Siobhan’, the elderly Irish lady, or ‘Karen’, a right slapper from Newcastle who would have loved any kind of attention, they could have had any number of male voices, but they almost all chose me. In the end, I had a nervous breakdown.’
Sarah has since resigned and put in an action against BMW at an employment tribunal, on the grounds of constructive dismissal and failure to carry out its duty of care. BMW has declined to comment on the case as it is sub judice, but said that it is recalling 400,000 drivers as a precaution.