Riyadh: Saudi women will be allowed to start driving in the kingdom from June 24, the General Department of Traffic Director General Mohammad Al Bassami said on Tuesday.
“All the requirements for women in the kingdom to start driving have been established,” Al Bassami was quoted as saying in a statement released by the government.
In September 2017, a royal decree announced the end of a decades-long unofficial ban on women driving. The nine-month period was used to prepare for a smooth application of the decision that had been long resisted by conservatives in the kingdom.
Women 18 years of age and older will be allowed to apply for a driver’s licence, Al Bassami said.
Al Bassami said his department had been given full support from Interior Minister Prince Abdul Aziz Bin Saud Bin Nayef and all government agencies to “overcome all obstacles and ensure applying swift and smooth changes to help women in the kingdom benefit from the breakthrough move.”
The king’s decision is in line with the Vision 2030 strategy to introduce far-reaching reforms, spearheaded by Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman.
Applicants are required to pass a medical exam, theoretical and practical driving tests and complete the required hours of training in accredited driving schools, Al Bassami said.
Facilities for issuing licences to both Saudi and non-Saudi women will be ready at the beginning of June.
“Since the initial announcement that women would be able to drive starting in June, several driving schools have been established in coordination with a number of women’s universities,” he said.
In preparation for taking both practical and theoretical tests, applicants are required to spend a specified number of hours in training depending on their level of driving proficiency.
The training hours will vary between six and 30, depending on the applicant’s driving skills.
The initial five driving schools for women have been established in Riyadh, Jeddah, Dammam, Madinah and Tabuk in cooperation with women’s universities, but several other schools will be added around the country, he said.
Although training centres associated with universities are new to the Kingdom, they are considered valuable tools for female students to undergo driver’s training without disrupting their studies, Al Bassami said.
Women in Saudi Arabia who hold driving licences from abroad and who want to obtain a Saudi licence, can go to any of the 21 sites set up to facilitate the replacement process.
However, the driving abilities of foreign licence holders will be assessed and licence holders will undergo further training if their skills are found to be lacking.
“All the halls and arenas mentioned above are equipped to receive replacement request. The validity of the licence and the ability of those wishing to replace it will be determined by conducting a driving assessment in accordance with Article 37 and Article 37/2 which state that those who have not mastered driving should be referred to the Traffic Department even if they hold a driving licence, provided that the requested licence is compatible with the type of foreign or international license they hold,” Al Bassami said, quoted by the Centre for International Communication (CIC).
The centres are located in Riyadh, Jeddah, Dammam, Al Ahsa, Jubail, Buraidah, Oneezah, Hail, Tabuk, Taif, Makkah, Madinah, Abha, Arar, Jizan, Najran, Al Baha, Krayyat and Sakaka.
Al Bassami stressed that the royal order issued by King Salman Bin Abdul Aziz in September to allow women to obtain Saudi licences allows them to work as taxi drivers, either in traditional taxis or in the new internet-based ride services in the Kingdom.
“With the advent of this new move, women’s role in the traffic field will expand, as well. Women are already involved in monitoring traffic violations such as compliance with the mandatory seat belt law and the ban on using mobile phones while driving. These violations are automatically monitored, and authorities are considering adding more infractions to be detected by the automatic monitoring systems. As the new laws take root, an increased presence of women will be seen both in the field and in the administration of traffic laws.”
All laws and regulations governing the roads and driving will be applied equally to male and female drivers, Al Bassami said.
The official dismissed claims that women would be excluded from traffic violations including heavy window tints.
“Royal Order 905 was clear pertaining to the application of the traffic system on both males and females, so the Traffic Department will deal as per the above mentioned with the driver of the vehicle with no exception; the system is clear and will apply to all without exception.”