Millions of Saudi women are planning to apply for a driver’s license when the ban of female motorists is officially lifted in June. Preparations are already underway to get them ready for the road, from driving courses on various university campuses to forums on safety for women drivers.
Effat University in Jeddah is now offering training courses for students who want to learn the basics of how to operate a car as Gulf News reports. For many students, the experience has been a mix of nerves and excitement at being behind the wheel for the first time in their lives.
“I felt out of place. I’ve never sat on that side of the car. Usually I always sit in the back or on the right side, but it felt good. You feel, like, in control,” said Sara Ghouth, an 18-year-old freshman. “I want to drive a car. I want to be independent.”
Hour-long trainings on this female-only campus are being sponsored by Ford Motor and led by former racecar driver Francesca Pardini. Ford’s Driving Skills for Life program, a one-time session that focuses on safety, has been taught around the world including to male drivers in Saudi Arabia. However, this is the first time the company has taught women-only groups.
“With these girls, they’re like an empty book,” said Pardini. “They really want to learn.”
Female-only universities across the Kingdom are expected to offer full driving courses, as well as offer guidance through seminars and forums. Earlier this month, for instance, King Saud University (KSU) inaugurated a three-day forum on safety for women drivers, under the theme of “The First Time,” in the presence of Princess Nourah bint Mohammed.
According to Arab News, the forum, which included KSU’s top academics, exposed women to traffic laws and explained the procedure to obtain a license. It ultimately aimed to inculcate the culture of women driving and to introduce an educational and cultural experience toward-safe driving in an entertaining atmosphere.
Ministries have also joined in the push to get women ready for the mid-year deadline. According to Saudi Gazette, the Department of Education in Mecca has begun training as many as 770 women security coordinators in all girl schools in the three educational levels on safe driving. In addition, the Ministry of Transport has invited Saudi women to its "Safe Driving Environment" forum to test driving simulations using the ministry's smart transportation system.