Days after Saudi Arabia joined the rest of the world by announcing it will allow women to drive, the interior minister claimed there would be fewer car crashes on the kingdom's streets.
“Women driving cars will transform traffic safety to educational practice, which will reduce human and economic losses caused by accidents,” Minister of the Interior Prince Abdulaziz bin Saud bin Nayef said, according to the ministry’s Twitter feed.
The country of 30 million people has one of the highest traffic death rates in the world, according to a 2015 World Health Organization study, but the minister offered no other information about how female drivers could help change that.
The royal decree issued by King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud Tuesday announced that by June 2018, Saudi Arabia would start issuing driver's licenses to women, allowing officials some nine months to implement the necessary infrastructure. On Thursday, a government spokesman also confirmed that Saudi women will be allowed to drive at the same age as their male peers.
“Eighteen years is the age at which a person can obtain a driver’s license and drive a car in the kingdom," Interior Ministry spokesman Mansour al-Turki told Al Arabiya television.
While most middle-class Saudi families already own multiple vehicles, big car companies seized on the opportunity to start marketing toward new female customers.
Volkswagen Middle East tweeted simply: "It's your turn."
Nissan Middle East posted a photo of a vanity license plate that reads "2018 GRL."
Cadillac also got in on the trend, sharing a photo of a woman behind the wheel with the caption: "Show them what it means to drive the world forward."
The royal decree also called for a ministerial committee to draft a roadmap within 30 days, stipulating the way forward must "apply and adhere to the necessary Sharia standards," a reference to Islamic law in the deeply conservative kingdom. Saudi women still have a long road to equality, but for the moment, many there celebrated the milestone.