Like all progress in our conservative society, if women are ever going to be permitted to drive in the Kingdom, we must focus on modest steps to satisfy those on all sides of the debate.
In no realistic version of the future will women suddenly start driving the next day, even if a law is passed that allows them to do so. Progressing to that point will require the establishment of a framework and a process of several stages:
Stage 1: Establishing a framework
Driving schools will be set up for women, where licenses will be provided with the permission of the woman’s male guardian.
A police training academy will be established for female police officers who will monitor traffic violations and be called to scenes of accidents involving women drivers. In addition, ambulances called to the scenes of an accident must have both male and female paramedics.
Stage 2: Easing into it
Once the framework is set up, it will be time to test it. But like the implementation of all new programs, it will start with a limited “soft launch”.
Women in this stage will be permitted to drive; however, only in the presence of a male guardian. Due to the framework requirements, this will be rolled out city by city; for example, Jeddah or Riyadh to begin with.
There will also be restrictions on the time that women can drive, say between 5:30 a.m. and 9 p.m., because of the relatively small number of female police that will at that time be in the police force. However, there will be an exemption for medical or other emergencies. This stage will ensure that all the initial problems with the roll out are resolved and that the results are satisfactory.
Stage 3: More cities involved in the roll out
This stage will involve removing the requirement that a male guardian be present when a woman is driving. Timings can be restricted to between 5:30 a.m. and 9 p.m., based once again on the availability of female police officers, although by now the number of such officers should have increased. There will now be many cities involved in the roll out of the program, although women will not be permitted to drive between cities.
Stage 4: The final stage
The final stage will go into effect when all major cities have set up the framework for women driving and have satisfactorily completed the previous stages and have a sizable female police force. After this has been accomplished, the timing restrictions can be lifted.
There are a number of different ways to allow women to drive in Saudi Arabia while satisfying all of those who are for and against them doing so. No matter what route we take to get there, I believe that if we work together we can.