RIYADH: The Saudi government is doing everything to ensure safe driving, with regulations, laws and punishments applied equally to men and women without discrimination, Maj. Gen. Mansour Al-Turki, spokesperson for the Interior Ministry, said on Sunday.
He said the ministry has received more than 120,000 applications for driving licenses so far and demand is still very high.
“Our preparation for this historic day started after the issuance of the royal decree,” Al-Turki said in a press conference. “We took into consideration the general safety of the traffic across the country.”
There has been a huge effort put in to reduce the number of accidents, and to address the lack of driving experience among Saudi women, he added.
Al-Turki stressed that: “Six specialized driving schools have been issued licenses to train women in driving in five cities across the Kingdom. Four of these schools have already started operations and the fifth one in Qassim is nearing completion.
“Furthermore, we had already prepared 22 centers in 22 cities and governorates to exchange foreign driving licenses for local ones for Saudi female citizens and residents. We also intensified the use of technology on roads to ensure the ideal execution of all safety measures. We were keen to provide the technology needed to identify female drivers while driving (identifying her without asking her to remove her cover if she is covering).
“We trained 40 Saudi women for traffic checking (field checking) and they will start working within a few weeks as investigation assistants for investigating accidents,” he said.
The Interior Ministry spokesman said: “Very strict harassment legislation was issued before the implementation of women driving; actually this legislation was issued to stand against harassment in all its forms and in all places, including the ones that can happen on road, and protect everyone, not only women, in the society from this brutal action.
“We took a very important step and I can safely say that we succeeded in achieving all the objectives we had nine months ago to ensure safe driving for everyone. We equally trust both females and males in sticking to the regulations and safety measures.”
The director general of the Traffic Department, Brig. Gen. Mohammed Al-Bassami, said his department had sent a number of police officers overseas to get trained on how to investigate car accidents, and since their return, they have been training their peers across the country.
“We have developed an online site to specify dates for license exchange and have also developed an identity verification system. We closely cooperated with the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority to improve insurance packages and regulations. A strong database has been developed; speed limit signs, radars and CCTV are increased.
“We will announce the readiness of more cities and governorates to train women in more driving schools by next week,” Al-Bassami said.
When asked about the possibility of foreign women visiting Saudi Arabia to rent a car, Al-Turki said: “Yes, definitely, she only has to have a license and then she can.”
Asked whether any accidents or violations had been recorded, he said: “No. Besides, it is too early to start issuing figures. We have noticed in the past few hours that women are very responsible and aware.”
The speakers said that the authorities were studying the possibility of raising fines in order to reduce deaths and accidents.
Asked about the fine when catching an unlicensed woman driving, Al- Bassami said: “What applies for male drivers will definitely apply to females. Equal treatment for both.”
It also becomes a woman’s right to rent a car or make business related to buying, selling and renting cars. He added that Saudi women must immediately exchange their foreign driving license while a female visitor’s case will depend on her paperwork and residence duration. However, they commented that some women who had foreign driving license did not pass the driving test in Saudi Arabia, which is a sign that the Kingdom is following highest standards to ensure safe driving.