Saturday, May 5, 2018

Saudi Traffic Department all set for June 23, when women will be behind the wheels

This story originally appeared in the English daily, the Saudi Gazette but I found it on A link to the story is here, and the text is below:

All necessary formalities have been completed in this regard, Director of Traffic Department Maj. Gen. Muhammad Bin Abdullah Al-Bassami has said. 

Saudi Arabia - The traffic department is all set for June 23 (Shawwal 10) when women in the Kingdom will be behind the wheels, a historic step in the ongoing reforms initiated by Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman, deputy premier and minister of defense.
All necessary formalities have been completed in this regard, Director of Traffic Department Maj. Gen. Muhammad Bin Abdullah Al-Bassami has said.
Several driving schools have been opened in cooperation with some Saudi universities. Apart from this, several locations have been earmarked to issue driving licenses to Saudi women holding foreign licenses. Al-Bassami also talked about computerized surveillance system for monitoring violations like not fastening the seat belt and talking on mobile phone while driving. He said there is a possibility of adding new violations to the list in the automatic monitoring system.
 Following are the excerpts from Maj. Gen. Al-Bassami’s replies to prominent questions on traffic regulations.
Q: What is the latest situation for implementing the royal order on traffic rules and the executive bylaw, including issuing driving licenses to men and women, alike?
A: All requirements are ready to enable women to drive. Licenses have been issued to open and operate special driving schools for women, according to the highest international standards. The objective is to raise the level of traffic safety in the Kingdom. The Traffic Department has set training programs for women in women-exclusive schools. Also the number of training hours has been specified for each female applicant. This depends on the evaluation of her ability to drive once the application is submitted. Some driving schools have already received applications from female applicants and started training them.
Q: What is the number of driving schools for women?
A2: Till now there are five driving schools for women in Riyadh, Jeddah, Dammam, Madinah and Tabuk. The department is currently studying proposals to open driving schools in various cities and governorates of the Kingdom. Modalities are underway to issue driving licenses to women who have completed training, and replace foreign or international driving license with a Saudi license.
Q: Is the training program compulsory for obtaining a driving license and what is the duration of the training?
A: The amended bylaw for the Traffic Regulation stipulates that to obtain a driving license the trainee, who has the basic driving skills, must complete 6 training hours. The person who does not possess basic skills must get a maximum of 30 training hours. This will decrease depending on the speed with which the person gains the required basic skills.
Q: How do you evaluate your partnership with the universities with regard to opening driving schools?
A: We discerned keenness from the universities to provide high standard driving schools for women in the Kingdom, according to the new criteria adopted by the Traffic Department. Also, the participation of universities in training women to drive facilitates for female students to participate in the training program while they are still in the university. Their studies are not disrupted.
Q: What is the mechanism for dealing with Saudi or expatriate women holding foreign driving licenses? Has the Traffic Department provided them with services to facilitate replacement of international driving licenses?
A: Some 21 locations have been earmarked for the purpose. They are in Riyadh, Dammam, Al-Ahsa, Jubail, Buraidah, Unaizah, Hail, Tabuk, Jeddah, Taif, Makkah, Madinah, Abha, Arar, Jazan, Najran, Qurayyat and Sakaka.
Q: Is it allowed for a woman holding a driving license to work as a female driver in web-based cabs (i.e. Uber, Careem, etc)?
A: The royal order stipulates that the traffic regulations should be implemented on males and females on an equal footing. Therefore, a woman holding a driving license can work in web-based cabs.
As to the criticism that driving schools are charging exorbitant rates, the official said what has been levied is the maximum that is allowed. The same fees will be taken from male applicants also.
The conditions for a female applicant to obtain a driving license are clear: She should be at least 18 to have a private driving license and at least 20 for a public driving license. She should pass the medical test, and the theoretical and practical driving tests after completing the required number of training hours in a driving school.
Al-Bassami stressed that men and women will be treated equally before the law, as per the requirements of the royal order stipulating that both men and women should be treated equally. He added that the regulations are clear.
He said women are working in the Traffic Department in monitoring violations, like not fastening the seat belt and talking on the mobile phone holding the set. Women are being trained to work in the field and in administrative functions. “God willing, women will play an effective role in future”, he added.
As to when the electronic platform for receiving objections to traffic violations registered against motorists will be launched, Al-Bassami said the Traffic Department is working hard in completing the technical and administrative requirements and will launch the project soon.
Asked about the number of traffic violations detected for not fastening the seat belt and talking on the mobile phone while driving, Al-Bassami expressed deep thanks to all motorists for positively responding to the electronic monitoring of these violations. He said statistics show a tremendous increase in abidance by traffic instructions. This is evidence of the motorists’ full awareness of the dangers of such violations. He added that the Traffic Department still seeks full compliance of the rules by the motorists.
He said the Traffic Department is completing the infrastructure needed to cover all of the Kingdom’s cities and governorates with monitoring systems for detecting traffic violations, including CCTV systems.
Al-Bassami said some of the articles of the traffic regulations are being revised, especially fines for traffic violations. The department is also improving the electronic services it is providing to the public.
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