JEDDAH – The Jeddah Advanced Driving School received some 21,000 applicants so far, according to the head of the school Dr. Mona Albureikan.
Up till this week, 124 new drivers have graduated from the driving school, which opened in mid-May.
“Those who already have foreign driving licenses are much more,” said Albureikan.
The school, hosted by King Abdulaziz University, trained 84 Saudi instructors to teach women driving lessons. They received honorary certifications in an inauguration ceremony on Tuesday.
The ceremony was attended by President of King Abdulaziz University Prof. Abdulrahman Al-Youbi and head of the General Department of Traffic Gen. Mohammed Al-Bassami and Jeddah Traffic Director Brig. Gen. Sulaiman Al-Zakeri.
Al-Youbi said the university accepted the invitation by the General Department of Traffic and made concerted efforts over the last few months to establish the driving school.
He vowed to develop the school further to receive more applicants. The school is working on training a new batch of instructors to increase their number from 84 to 130.
The General Directorate of Traffic is a strategic partner of the driving school and supervises the training and traffic safety courses.
Asked about how the school prepares for the load of applicants, Albureikan told Saudi Gazette the school plans to expand its practice zones and open three new spaces this week to increase the capacity from 40 to 60 students at a time.
“According to the General Directorate of Traffic’s guidelines, it is important for us to guarantee the quality of the training future drivers receive and not necessarily how many we can train at a time. If it were for quantity, it would have been easy to receive more applicants. However, we want to ensure drivers are completely safe before being allowed to drive.”
The Saudi instructors have driving experience in different countries and have received 120 hours of theoretical and practical training before being certified to teach at the school.
Asked about the cost of training, which some trainees have complained about, Albureikan said, “The training provided at the school is of a high quality and there is an online service, which is highly sophisticated and easy to use. The facilities include interactive learning and 3-D displays. And the training is done with the latest models in cars. The pricing is reasonable for the training provided and it is not higher than the cost of training in other countries.”
Currently there are four driving schools for women in the Kingdom, including King Abdulaziz University, Princess Nourah Bint Abdulrahman University in Riyadh, Tabuk University in Tabuk and Imam Abdulrahman Bin Faisal University in the Eastern Province.
One reason the schools are overloaded is the large number of applicants from rural areas. Women living in small towns and rural areas have applied to driving schools in large cities.
Abdul Latif Jameel Company, which has the largest share in the Kingdom's car market, is the official sponsor for all four driving schools for women.
The company also hired women recently and trained them in automobiles.
“The company trained women staff to learn about cars from A to Z,” said Maha Al-Hamaly, head of sales in the women’s department at Toyota and Lexus.
“Women’s view of cars is different now," she said. "In the past, they looked at cars as a mode of transportation that is a medium between her and whoever is driving the car. Now, women customers are shopping with a different eye. They’re mainly focusing on quality, safety and after sales services. We’ve witnessed a significant increase in female customers.”
The driving schools will soon offer a VIP service with luxury sedans.