On many occasions, I have discussed with friends the topic of how safe it is for women to drive on the roads in Saudi Arabia.
I know from the experience of my own wife and by doing a bit of research that there are major concerns about women taking the wheel for the first time in the kingdom.
So how safe is it actually for women to start driving in Saudi Arabia? The answer is -it really isn’t. In general, it isn’t even safe for men to drive in Saudi Arabia, so it very likely isn’t safe for women either.
But there are some important things you can do to make your driving as safe as possible in spite of the dangers.
- Remain Alert and Aware as you Drive
- Know how to correctly handle your vehicle
- Use the Correct Speed and Braking
- Get a Good Sense of Space in Traffic
- Know the Distractions and Impairments
Driving standards in the kingdom are pretty bad. Everyone I know in Saudi Arabia has experienced a car accident. In the cities especially, drivers are reckless and inconsiderate.
There are many accidents deaths and injuries each year and the experience on roads for any driver can be harrowing and quite nerve wracking.
Women now are taking to the road in ever increasing numbers in the Saudi kingdom. So, it is a good idea to understand what the issues are and to plan a safe driving strategy.
This will help to decrease the chances of getting involved in an accident, of injury and possible death.
The Problem of Dangerous Driving on Saudi Roads and its Causes.
Women should understand that driving in the kingdom is dangerous and that each time you go out on the road the chances of being involved in a car accident are very high indeed.
There are a number a reasons for this. In general it is simply that male drivers fail to drive with care and with consideration for others. The main reasons for accidents are listed below.
- High Speed Driving
- Distractions (mobiles phones)
- Risk Taking
- Unsafe vehicles
- Hitting camels or other obstacles
- Running traffic lights
In 1971 in Saudi Arabia, there was one road accident every 130 minutes with one death every 925 minutes and one injury every 96 minutes.
By the 1990s, an accident occurred every 15 minutes, with one death every 195 minutes and one injury every 23 minutes.
Today, there are about 20,000 driving accidents each year, one accident every minute and 20 deaths per day and untold number of injuries.
This increase can be explained in part by the dramatic increase in car ownership and extension of the Saudi road network since the 1970s. Also, accidents are due to the fact that more and more drivers are young people aged between 18-25.
This age group are less safety conscious and are taking most of the driving risks.
5 Important Tips On How Women Cab Be Safe Drivers on Saudi Roads
In order for women to have a safe driving experience in Saudi Arabia and to significantly decrease the chance of ever having an accident listed below are some useful things they can do.
Know what the Dangerous Are
Before taking to the roads try to get a feel beforehand for what the dangers and hazards actually are. While travelling from place to place, study the driving habits of other drivers.
Notice what they do well and what do they do badly? Where on the roads are driving taking risks and the danger spots? Try to understand people are doing wrong for accidents to occur.
Plan an Avoidance Strategy
An accident avoidance driving strategy involves anticipating possible accidents in advance of them happening. This can be achieved in five principle areas.
- Remaining Alert and Aware as you Drive
- Knowing how to correctly handle your vehicle
- Using the Correct Speed and Braking
- Getting a Good Sense of Space in Traffic
- Knowing the Distractions and Impairments
1. Driving Alertness and Awareness
Start out with the deliberate intention to drive your car safely. Visualize yourself driving comfortably and carefully and say to yourself, ‘Today, I will drive safely and arrive at my destination in good health’. Know how to get to your destination, using a map or by setting the GPS first.
With that intention, make sure that you and your vehicle are in fact safe to drive on the roads. Quickly check you have enough fuel and scan the tires to see if more air is needed.
It is a good idea not to fill up the tank completely in hot weather and ensure that the spare tire is fully inflated and ready in case of a puncture.
Check the radiator for water level and keep a large bottle of tap/faucet water in the truck for emergencies.
As you drive make sure seat belts are fastened for you and your children. Also, always be looking around you and especially in the mirrors for speeding and hapless drivers.
As you pull out of a junction turning left or right onto a main road, keep looking left and right and behind you until you are absolutely that it is safe to pull out.
DO NOT let impatient waiting male drivers behind tooting their horns force you into taking the risk of pulling out into oncoming traffic. Let THEM wait and stay safe. Control your feeling and be determined. (MFS)
As you drive keep checking in the mirrors constantly. Anticipate what may be happening ahead of you and behind you. Check the traffic lights as you approach them.
If they are green, it means other drivers behind you will probably NOT be slowing down in order to catch the lights to drive on through.
You should slow down to just below the speed limit, don’t change lanes and keeping checking for speeding cars behind you.
2. Knowing how to Correctly Handle your Vehicle
Knowing your vehicle and how it handles under certain road conditions can help to avoid accidents. A big vehicle is heavy, slower and more powerful on fast roads and longer stretches.
A small vehicle is quick, easy to maneuver in crowded traffic, but has less acceleration and power on longer main roads.
First check the road conditions, the number of cars, the weather and the time of day. Try to avoid the morning and afternoon rush hours when accidents most occur as people rush to and from work.
If the weather is hot, regularly top up the radiator water and if it rains, the roads will be wet and slippery. Check your brakes and adjust your speed.
Know how your car handles when accelerating, decelerating and braking. Practice emergency stops frequently and learn to recover from vehicle skids and handle your feelings.
3. Managing Speed and Braking
Women naturally are more cautious behind the wheel and drive more carefully and deliberately than men. This however can sometimes pose a problem.
Most men on Saudi roads drive aggressively, with certainty and willingly take risks.
If you are driving slowly make sure you are not holding up the traffic behind you. Avoid driving on the hard shoulder. Not only is it dangerous, it is also illegal and can cause accidents.
The solution is to get confident and try to match the speed of the traffic generally. Keep in the slow lane and be aware of the speed limit not driving too fast nor too slow.
Always signal using indicators when you want to stop the vehicle or turn left or right. As you approach junctions and traffic lights keep covering the brakes with your right foot and stay alert to potential problems.
4. Getting a Good Sense of Traffic Spacing
You should know when its time to brake, how to stop your car and maintain space between you and the vehicle head of you.
The general principle is that the greater the speed the longer the distance is needed to brake. Know what that is for the speeds you wish to travel at.
Remember too that the driver behind you also needs time and distance to stop in case you brake suddenly.
Remaining aware by maintaining speed and keeping your distance will go along way help you avoid getting rear ended.
5. Knowing the Driving Distractions and Impairments
You should prepare ahead of time and be ready to know what to do as the distractions arise while you are driving. Many accidents are caused by the drivers using mobile devices.
If you must take a call, use the speaker phone or Bluetooth headsets. Put the GPS high up on the dashboard and have it speak you the directions.
If children are riding with you, keep them suitably entertained with books and tablets. Make sure you get them used to seat belts and harnesses from an early age.
Avoid putting on makeup, checking and preening yourself in the mirror while on the go. Take time before you set off or after you arrive to do this.
Also, clean your window of dirt and debris before you drive to maintain a clear window view of the road.
Drink plenty of water and know when its time to take a rest. In hot weather, it is easy to get drowsy and sleepy. Take sufficient breaks and keep refreshed.
Also, notice what other drivers do when they are distracted. When they are late, they tend to speed, get aggressive and unnecessary risks.
Often times, when they use mobile phones on the go, their cars will move slowly and veer off the lane and enter the lane you are driving in. Use your horn politely and maintain some extra space.
How can women can learn to drive in Saudi Arabia? Get someone to teach you in many of the deserted areas or go to a driving school. In Saudi Arabia, some universities and public schools are teaching women to drive.
What does learning to drive for women involve? There are eight formal theoretical lectures, followed driver simulation training, then hands on ‘yard’ training and finally the actually driving test.