Drivers, Cars and other Frustrations

It was our first month here. My husband was the driver and we were heading towards a highway somewhere in Al Khobar. We were on a feeder road heading towards an onramp to a highway. The person driving in back of us didn’t like my husband’s more cautious driving, as we were new here. He wanted to go faster. He sped up, passed us close by and beat us to the onramp. Then he promptly slowed down, way down to an almost standstill, just before the onramp ended and the highway started. Cars were following in back of us, which made for an unsafe situation, and we honked him to move. Finally after having 3 cars pile up behind us, he sped up and got onto the highway, letting us all move as well. Passive aggressive to the next level!

This is of course dangerous and was a shocking welcome to the Saudi driving experience. The CDC states the #2 cause of death in Saudi is “Road Injuries” in 2018.

Here are some things to get used to and expect in your daily commute. People will tailgate, swerve, change lanes without looking, drift over lines, and most commonly take a turn from 2 lanes over when they should be going straight. All this happens all the time. Also when the light turns green, cars start honking. Just be cautious and make sure you get a larger car. Saudis like their American brand and luxury cars, so don’t get stuck in a small car if you can help it. You have more of a road presence in a larger car like a SUV.

In June 2018, a few months before we arrived, women drivers were added to the road. This at first had it’s setbacks as they were more cautious, and the accident rate went up. However it wasn’t due to all new lady drivers, it was dealing with bad driving habits that have lingered from the past. For this, the Saudi authorities have installed cameras at traffic lights, etc. The fines are high here so people pay attention. When you stop to make a right turn on red, you need to stop a full 5 seconds. If you fail to do this, you will get a few thousand SAR fine. If you are too slow, the folks behind you will start honking.

Many Saudis have drivers that take them places in their car. These hired drivers take care of the car and chauffeur the family members around town. They are usually very good on the road. Taxis are another safe driver on the road. Basically the livelihood of the driver would disappear if they were to get in an accident or cause one. We all have to look out for each other while on the road. When you see a fancy sports car, give them the space.

Photo by Avinash Patel on

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