Is Saudi Arabia ready for potential 8 million new drivers?

June 20, 2018 4:19 pm

Amira Abdulgader enters her practice vehicle. Source: Reuters.

Back in September 2017, when King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud decreed the ban on Saudi women driving be lifted, Saudi women in the Kingdom were overjoyed. June 24 was to be the long-awaited day, yet it had seemed so distant – perhaps too good to be true even.

Now, we are merely 4 days away from this momentous occasion. The ban will be lifted this Sunday.

How, and who is preparing for this upcoming change?

How have women been preparing for this?

The Associated Press (AP) reports that many of the Kingdom’s women have been attending driving lessons at female-only college campuses, in anticipation of the historic date.

The Financial Times reports, “when the website for Saudi’s first driving school for women opened for online registration [in February], it attracted more than 165,000 applicants in just three days.”

According to a survey in 2017 by YouGov, 80% of Saudi women interviewed wanted to get their license and drive. That’s approximately 7.8 million women who are about to or interested to begin driving.

On June 4, the government distributed driving licenses to the first 10 women in the Kingdom’s history, marking the first steps toward making the new law a reality.

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“Sitting behind the wheel (means) that you are the one controlling the trip,” architect Amira Abdulgader told Reuters, after completing her final driving lesson. “I would like to control every single detail of my trip. I will be the one to decide when to go, what to do, and when I will come back.”

She added, “We need the car to do our daily activities. We are working, we are mothers, we have a lot of social networking, we need to go out – so we need transport. It will change my life.”

Amira Abdulgader practices on a driving simulator. Source: Reuters.

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What about businesses?

Amira Abdulgader is one of about 200 women at the state oil firm Aramco who have enlisted in complimentary driving lessons offered by the company to its female employees and their families, Reuters reports.

5% of Aramco’s 66,000 staff are women, so it is still possible 3100 more of them could eventually enlist in these training lessons.

Automotive company Ford launched their own driving course for women, dubbed Driving Skills for Life for Her (DSFL). By March, 250 women had signed up.

“The DSFL for Her sessions have been tailor-made for Saudi women as they approach the day when they can legally drive on public roads,” Ford said in a press release.

Ride-hailing companies such as Careem have been training women as well. Thousands have already signed up to be drivers for the company, CNBC reports.

The firm is pushing to recruit a total of 100,000 female drivers in the Kingdom.

Reuters reports that some universities have also opened their doors to women looking to learn to drive, launching new female-only courses for them.

From the advertising perspective of things, automotive companies are having a blast. Manufacturers like Ford and Volkswagen were quick to get in on the excitement, releasing appropriately themed ads.

Tune back in next week as we bring you all the latest updates as the lift comes into effect.

READ: Could Saudi women getting their driving licences be a bad thing?

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Mark Anthony Karam
By Mark Anthony Karam
Journalist
Mark Anthony Karam has 3 years experience in the field of visual and written media, having earned his Masters degree from the UK. You can get in touch with him here: [email protected]



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