Teachers in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia can count on costlier work commutes following the recent decision by the Traffic Department to ban tinted windows in school buses. Several bus companies that transport both schoolchildren and female teachers are complaining of lost profits as women educators ditch the buses in the aftermath of the ban.
In addition to protecting passengers from sun insolation, the tinted film provides the women with privacy as they travel long distances to their schools. Speaking from Taif, driver Hamdan Al-Khudaidi accused traffic police of repeatedly stopping school buses whose windows are tinted and slapping them with heavy fines.
“There has been a noticeable increase in inspections of buses carrying female teachers at checkpoints on both the Taif-Riyadh and the Southern roads which in turn causes teachers to be late for classes. Then there are repeated fines for tinting windows. This has forced many teachers to resort to alternative means of transportation,” he told the Saudi Gazette.
The lost ridership and fines cut into bus company profits, and resorting to personal transportation places a burden on the teachers who are prohibited by Saudi law from driving and must rely on a guardian to shuttle them to and from work.
“If things continue like this, many companies will have no choice but to close as bus owners and drivers are being issued tickets almost daily. Drivers are being pressured by teachers’ guardians to tint windows and the traffic police to stop the practice but who are we supposed to listen to?”
Banddar Al-Thumali, whose wife is a teacher, said male guardians are upset by the ban. He said authorities must find a solution that satisfies everyone.
“They need to figure this out. Perhaps the Traffic Department should create a database that contains the names and addresses of bus drivers in every transport company and the names and relevant information of teachers using buses. They can then issue special ID cards that can be used at police checkpoints,” he said.
Spokesman for the Traffic Department in Taif, Major Ali Al-Malki said the ban was put in place for safety reasons and urged drivers to comply.
“Windows can be tinted but they should not prevent someone from seeing passengers in the vehicle from the outside. Anyone caught flouting the ban will face a minimum fine of $80 and a maximum fine of $134. Rules are in place for the safety and wellbeing of all,” he said.
Perhaps they can look north to their Jordanian neighbors, where buses have interior curtains that offer comparable privacy.
Image of Muslim woman without a ride by Shutterstock