JEDDAH – The countdown for women in Saudi Arabia to start driving has begun.
Saudi authorities are scheduled to lift a decades-old ban on women driving in the country as of June 24. As the date is drawing near, centers training women how to drive in Jeddah and other cities have been struggling to cope with the big turnout of prospective female drivers who have been enthusiastically responding to the historic decision by the Kingdom.
While Saudi women are making preparations to enter a hitherto male domain, training centers have started intensive programs to instruct them on traffic regulations and driving skills so that they qualify for a Saudi driving license, Al-Hayat Arabic newspaper said in a report on Thursday.
Deputy President of King Abdulaziz University (KAU) for Projects and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Saudi Engineers Council Dr. Abdullah Al-Ghamdi said: “The total number of female applicants for obtaining driving licenses has reached 7,822 as of now. Of them, 261 have paid the fees and are given the dates to begin their training.”
The registration is open for all women who fulfill the required conditions announced by the Traffic Department.
The Jeddah Driving School for Women has a total of 125 trainers. The woman trainee can choose the time that suits her from the given training schedule, Al-Ghamdi said.
In late 2017, an agreement was signed between KAU and the Traffic Department to set up the first women’s driving school in Jeddah governorate. The school will award recognized driving certificates. At that time, the Traffic Department had made it clear that there would be no difference between the number plates of cars driven men and women. All cars will be subject to the number plate regulations in force at present, according to Article 7 of the Traffic Regulations.
The conditions for the photo to be used for a woman’s driving license are the same as those for male drivers. The royal decision stipulates implementation of the rules for Traffic Regulations and their executive bylaws on both male and female drivers alike.
Licenses were granted to five driving schools exclusively for women in Riyadh, Jeddah, Dammam, Madinah and Tabuk. At present, applications for opening other driving schools are being studied in different Saudi cities and governorates.
Preparations are under way to issue driving licenses to women who complete their training programs and to replace international and foreign licenses held by female drivers, provided these licenses are recognized by Saudi Arabia, as stipulated by the Traffic Regulations and their executive bylaws.
All licensed women’s driving schools have seen huge turnouts of women keen to learn how to drive.
The Jeddah Driving School for Women at KAU has completed final preparations to begin training. The driving school has set up a website that provides guidance to Saudi women on licenses; how to renew or replace them, a general idea on the Traffic Regulations and basic driving skills.
The school confirmed that it has not set the fees for practical training, despite accepting the applications from the prospective trainees. What it provides now is electronic training only, which includes theoretical aspects of training, giving the trainee a general idea on the driving licenses, their types and the traffic violations that will lead to the withdrawal of the driving license. It also deals with getting women ready to drive in various conditions, and how to tackle hazards by following the steps for safe driving.
The school said in order for a female trainee to obtain a driving license, she must undergo a medical check-up at a recognized medical center, attend the lectures on theoretical aspects of driving and attend written and practical exams. She must obtain a document certifying that she has passed the examination. She will then take this document to the Traffic Department to be issued a driving license.