The diary of a Saudi man, currently living in the United Kingdom, where the Religious Police no longer trouble him for the moment.
In Memory of the lives of 15 Makkah Schoolgirls, lost when their school burnt down on Monday, 11th March, 2002. The Religious Police would not allow them to leave the building, nor allow the Firemen to enter.
If someone drives into you, there's a 1 in 10 chance he's under 16.
Underage Drivers Add to Chaos on the Roads
DAMMAM, 24 March 2004 — Underage drivers are everywhere in the Kingdom’s cities. Outside one supermarket, a boy barely 14 sits at the wheel of a Cadillac, his mother by his side. He has driven into an empty fruit crate which got stuck to the car’s chassis. A passer-by finally crawls beneath the car and pulls out the wooden crate.
On another road, a little boy so small his head is barely visible above the steering wheel drives down the wrong side of a one-way street. Other drivers wave frantically for him to get off the road.
Out of 500,000 road accidents in Saudi Arabia last year, nine or 10 percent were caused by underage drivers.
For readers from other countries, I must explain that we do not have a system of driving schools and rigorous testing. When you go to the Centre to get a licence, they ask you to drive round a circuit, and then reverse between some cones. If you can do that, you get your licence. That's why Saudi driving is probably the worst in the world.
However lots of parents let their kids drive, even when they are too young for a licence. So what do the Shawarma Champions, our intrepid Police, do?
Had he ever been stopped by police? “I am very vigilant about them. If I see one coming, I pretend to park the car and they say nothing.”
Faisal said police stopped him a few times, but they always let him go. He has had only one accident, which was a fender bender. “I was driving by the stadium where a soccer match was on. Suddenly there was a big roar from the crowd, I got distracted and hit the car in front of me. I saw that it was something minor, so I quickly sped off.”
And that's the other thing. When they hit you, they won't be insured, so you'll have to pay for the repairs yourself.
(That's another thing about this country. Until recently, motor insurance was optional. The Imams used to say it was against Islam, because it was "gambling". However the government, in an uncharacteristically progressive move, brought it in. But not for 13-year-olds)
A large number of accidents involve under-age drivers going too fast and driving into walls, killing themselves. That helps to solve the problem.