Safe braking and the dangers of driver distraction were also covered in the course. In Saudi Arabia, 7,500 road deaths in 2017 were attributed to the use of mobile phones while driving, the Saudi Gazette reported in early March.
The lifting of the driving ban on women is one of several societal reforms overseen by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Along with overturning the driving ban, women are now allowed to attend sporting events in Saudi Arabia. A 35-year-old ban on cinemas has also been lifted as part of the crown prince’s radical (for Saudi Arabia) reform drive.
Women are not formally banned from driving under Saudi law but it is illegal to grant them a driving license under the current system, effectively creating a ban. King Salman decreed in September 2017 that women were to be allowed to gain driver’s licenses.
Although the majority of senior religious scholars approved the move, some traditionalists are not happy. One Saudi cleric was also suspended after he said women should not drive because their brains shrink to a quarter the size of a man’s when they go shopping, according to Reuters.
Haifa Jamalallail, president of Effat University, said the reform was overdue: “The wheels of change are constantly moving, and finally Saudi Arabia has caught up with the rest of the world with regard to women driving. Statistics show that women are generally safer and more defensive drivers than men,” he said.
Women in Saudi Arabia appear to be relishing the life-changing opportunity to drive with women’s universities offering to open up driving schools, Reuters reported, and companies like Ford keen to attract a lucrative new customer base.
Ford said that women who are not able to participate in person will be able to view online videos featuring a female student learning the basics from a female instructor in Arabic with English subtitles. The carmaker said it also plans to expand the program across the Saudi Kingdom in the future.
Jim Vella, president of the Ford Fund, the philanthropic arm of the Ford Motor Company, was in Saudi Arabia for the launch of the driving school around International Women’s Day.
“We are thrilled to be part of this historic milestone as we bring Ford Driving Skills for Life for Her to Saudi Arabia,” he said. “This program is designed to help young women feel safe and confident behind the wheel for the first time, and with it, we look forward to welcoming a new generation of women to the driver’s seat.”