“I don’t like the back seat”
“70% of car buyers are women – Let them drive their own cars!”
“I want to drive because my Mom needs milk for coffee”
These are not the answers by primary students to the question “Why do you want to drive?”. In fact it’s just the demand from women who are very desperate to drive in the Saudi Arabia. A new campaign, “N7nu Drive” has been brainstormed by a Saudi woman studying in the US because she felt guilty of her dad, who had to tackle his post-retirement time in chauffeuring her mom and 3 sisters.
Campaigns such as these are plenty in number, but the desired outcome? None.
Looking at the current condition of traffic and accidents, I just don’t see any room for more cars and mishaps. Even with men-only drivers driving around cities, the roads have become more or less a death bed for scores. What’s the reason behind it? It is clearly the way how we are taught driving there.
Last year, I was another victim of the infamous driving school “Dallah”, the one and only school authorised to teach and issue driving licenses, for men of course, throughout the Kingdom. That school is another bureaucratic failure where they make sure that anyone who enters the premises to register/renew a license has the longest and most miserable time of their life.
A place where you see applicants queuing outside the building even before the officials get up from their bed.
A place where there are 200 people waiting to meet the “official” behind the counter that has got more higher priorities which includes and does not limit to answering every call on his mobile and making sure that every family member of the caller, including his 4 wives, are doing fine.
The 5 day mandatory days of classes that every new applicant has to attend, is another story on its own. The classes last 6 hours, which include waiting 4 hours for driving 200m around the track and another hour for prayer break. All the driving classes and lessons are taken by Egyptians (Don’t ask me what’s wrong with Egyptians). Egyptians that think they know all languages including Arabic, English, Tagalog, Bengali and Urdu and have got enough knowledge of cars and rules of the road to educate other new drivers.
In fact the only thing that we are taught in those 5 days is how to pass the final driving test.
The final driving test includes driving in the presence of a Saudi traffic authority who is busy talking on the phone with his 3rd wife. He is so generous that he asks us not to waste time by putting seatbelts. If we insist on wearing the seatbelt so as to get that extra mark, you will be able to see the other side of that generous person. You will also feel more pity for the person who he is talking to on the phone.
When we finally get that driving license that all 17 year olds are anticipating for, we end up learning nothing. In a country that produces what could probably be described as the “world’s worst drivers”, do we want more of such drivers? Though I fully support the cause of the campaign, I still think there are lots of things to clear up before cleaning those roads for the women-folk.