Manama: A traffic accident occurs every minute in Saudi Arabia, a senior officer has said, sounding alarm bells on the critical need of seriously addressing the issue without delays.

 “There are more than 460,000 accident every year, an average of one every minute,” officers from the interior ministry said at a panel discussion on road safety. “More than 7,000 people have so far this year died in traffic accidents, an average of 20 per day, with almost one third (30 per cent) aged between 18 and 30. Around 70 per cent of the accidents happen outside urban areas and the remaining 30 in cities,” the panelists said.

Experts estimate that Saudi Arabia suffers around three billion Riyals annually in economic losses from traffic accidents.

In his intervention, Brigadier Mohammad Al Bassami, the head of traffic, highlighted the challenges that the kingdom was facing and possible solutions to tackle them and reduce the alarming rate of accidents.

“There is now a review of all operational plans and electronic operations at the directorate of traffic along improving procedures, especially following the order to allow women to dive,” he said.

Saudi Arabia in September said that women would be granted driving licences starting June next year.

The decision meant widespread logistic preparations, including having dedicated schools to teach women how to drive ahead of the driving implementation date.

The panelists insisted there would be no special treatment for women drivers and that the traffic laws and regulations would be applied normally.