Latifa Al-Zahrani

Latifa Al-Zahrani

Journalist

Saudi Ministry of Interior reiterates support for future female drivers

In less than a month, the royal decree legally granting women in Saudi Arabia the right to drive will take full effect. If merely for its magnitude and complexity, the decree’s timely and realistic implementation has been met with a great deal of skepticism. Now, the Saudi Ministry of Interior is alleviating such concerns with steadfast progress.

General Saeed bin Abdullah Al-Qahtani, Saudi Arabia’s Assistant Interior Minister for General Operations, has announced that measures and processes for the issuance of driver’s licenses for Saudi women have been finalized, as the Kingdom gears up for the decree’s implementation in the weeks to come.

Al-Qahtani made his announcement during a special convention held for Saudi special forces leadership in Jeddah, where a number of road safety measures, technology investments, and preparations for Saudi’s future female drivers were at the center of discussion.

The Kingdom’s technology investments into road safety were not particularly nor exclusively deployed for future female drivers, Al-Qahtani asserted, but rather, part of a much longer-term and strategic plan for the country’s infrastructural development.

For safe measure

In this crucial transition period, Al-Qahtani stressed, the onus is on the Saudi security authorities and sector to educate future female drivers on rules and regulations that guarantee their road safety.

On a macro level, Saudi women’s independent mobility will have nationwide economic implications, particularly in reducing the dependency on foreign workforce across Saudi households, Al-Qahtani added. He called on the Saudi community to support the country’s future female drivers; a safe environment that Al-Qahtani is keen on enforcing from the top down, as road security checkpoints and forces will abide by stringent codes of conduct in applying rules and regulations on female drivers, and in ensuring that they do not trespass on their rights.

In response to the many speculations around dedicated detention processes and centers for future female drivers who violate road safety rules and regulations, Al-Qahtani contested what he believes is a premature and pessimistic discussion. “Why start with detention centers and a pessimistic outlook [on the decision allowing women to drive]? [The hope and expectation is that] there will be no violations to road and traffic rules and regulations among female drivers. They will be qualified to drive, fully aware and informed of road safety violations, and equally responsible to avoid them”, he asserted. To this end, he expects “very rare cases” of arrests for violations by Saudi female drivers.

Women and General Security

On women’s employment across Saudi General Security ranks and divisions, Al-Qahtani said that female staffers and cadres had always been part of the security sectors and sub-sectors workforce. But they’ve visibly grown in numbers in recent times, he noted, and promise a valuable and scalable contribution to Saudi’s security sector.

“Today, a number of processes have been put in place for women’s military inclusion – both in office and on-ground positions”, he added, explaining that this broader scope for women in security forces has become a necessity for the sector – particularly when it comes to geographic coverage across the Saudi territory.

Low barriers

Also answering concerns around the pricing entry point for future female drivers, the Saudi General Department of Traffic has confirmed that it was involved in setting the fees for the issuance of driver’s licenses for women; compulsory under which will be fees for enrollment in driving schools for women, which were perceived by many women as inflated, and a key pain point in their obtaining a driver’s license.

These fees, the department justified, were set against specific curricular and technical benchmarks for the operation of driving schools. As such, any like-to-like comparison – particularly between driver’s license fees for women and those for men – should take operational costs and investments into account.

These fees have been standardized and capped, the department added, and will be equally applied to driving schools for men – which will be developed in the guise and operational model of those for women.

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