Calm discussion with the traffic department


Al-Riyadh newspaper

IN my last two articles, I talked about the slow preparation by the traffic department for women driving in the Kingdom and had asked them many questions. The traffic department answered my questions and the questions of many women who have been asking similar questions or raising singular issues, especially highlighting the difficulty of obtaining driving lessons and a license. The traffic department answered my questions in a form of an infograph, containing questions and answers, and distributed it to all print newspapers. Based on the answers of the director of traffic department, Gen. Muhammad Al-Bassami, I have follow up questions over some difficulties that the women face, be it in dealing with women issues in language and procedures.

Al-Bassami announced the completion of all requirement related to women driving in the Kingdom by establishing number of driving schools, in cooperation with Saudi universities. He said that a number of locations in the Kingdom were prepared to accept Women, who hold foreign driving license and are wishing to replace it with a Saudi one.

Here comes the question, how could all the requirements be completed when he said that permits were granted to five driving schools for women in Riyadh, Jeddah, Dammam, Madinah and Tabuk? There are 42 cities in the Kingdom and women inhabit these cities too and women are not limited to the five cities mentioned above, that in addition to the number of villages in the Kingdom. Then there are the procedures, which are very slow, in granting permits to issue driving schools all over the Kingdom.

Al-Bassami said that the traffic department has finalized and approved training programs at women schools, in which training hours were specified for each female applicant. What does that mean? Is this the first time we are establishing driving schools in the Kingdom? Don’t we have training programs already for men at driving schools? The number of hours required for men to learn and how to drive, isn’t that suppose to include women too?

The mechanism for replacing the International and Gulf driving licenses in Saudi Arabia is still unclear. We need clarity on this information and it should be clearly set out on the traffic department website. I would like to mention here that the traffic department website does not include any of the preparations Al-Bassami has mentioned, not in a form of news or decisions. The website does not have any information on the licensed schools.

We asked about the cost of training female drivers, which is six times as much as the cost for men drivers, and why the disparity. For example, it costs men to learn how to drive between SR450-SR560, while it costs nearly SR2500 for women to learn how to drive. Al-Bassami’s explanation was that the cost is based on the economic feasibility and the technical specification for the learning schools. I ask here, why the economic cost jumped six times just like that and without any valid explanation.

Al-Bassami was quick to say that this cost will apply to men also and in their schools and that they are working on now to improve it. I ask him, where were you in the past 70 years? Why are you trying to improve things now when women were allowed to drive? Where were you when the huge number of car accidents and fatality resulting from it were being reported daily? There was no mention of improving driving schools at that time, despite the fact that we had called for improvements many times. Now prices are set to shoot to the roof at the expense of women.

We hope that a comprehensive review of all preparations for women's driving will be conducted legally and financially as soon as possible.