By Elsa Baxter
21% of all road deaths in Dubai in first three months of the year involved minibuses.
A senior police official has called for a review of minibus licences because of the danger their drivers pose to Dubai’s other motorists.
Major General Mohammad Zaif Al Zafein, director of Dubai Police, traffic department, told Gulf News, that 21 percent of all road deaths in the first three months of this year involved minibuses.
He said nine accidents this year have resulted in the deaths of 14 people – the rate increased by the number of passengers travelling in minibuses.
On Sunday, seven people were killed and 11 injured when a minibus collided with a vehicle on the Dubai-Al Ain highway.
"It is classified as a lightweight vehicle which could be driven by anyone with the average light vehicle licence,” Al Zafein told the paper.
“The minibus doesn't have the basic safety features present in other vehicles. It holds around 14 passengers seated very close to each other and shouldn’t be used to transport passengers as its structure is not strong enough to hold this number of passengers.
“This vehicle is unstable and it could deceive the driver," he said.
Figures show that while there is an overall decline in the number of road accidents in the country in the first eight months of the year, there has been a rise in the number of accidents involving minibuses.
Earlier this year officials ruled that a maximum nine passengers could be carried in a minibus, down from 16, but this has been largely ignored, the paper said.
Accident figuresJan-Aug 2008Total road accidents: 2,563Total road deaths: 193
Jan-Aug 2009Total road accidents: 2,485 Total road deaths: 146
Source: Gulf News Archive & S.A.N.
Minibuses do fill a useful role in transportation world wide. It's the drivers in the UAE that cause the accidents - not the vehicles. My suggestions - 1) a very strict PSV type driving test for potential minibus drivers. 2) speed limiters 3) regular, enforced maintenance checks 4) enforce existing rules - if there is a limit of 9 pax as stated in the article, pull over any overloaded bus. Fine the driver lightly and slap a huge penalty on the owner/operator. 5) fit seat belts and wire them to the engine so if they are not used, the minibus is immobilised.
Look at the stats from South Africa if you want to know how lethal these light vehicles are when used for mass people transport. If nothing else force operators to use the "maxi" taxi transporters with stronger frame, double rear wheels, and seatbelts reinforced into the base frame. They are slower, and less likely to deceive the driver on their lack of ability to stop quickly, or take sharp turns at high speed, forcing the drivers to be a lot more carefull and conservative in their driving. I think the stats are some 16,000 road deaths per year on 9m vehicles in South Africa, nearly 4 times the deaths for 20% of the vehicles compared to UK or European levels - with a large proportion involving mass transport light taxi vehicles. If your population can afford the traffic congestion - then ban the mini taxi's, but otherwise a better solution for the less well off mass transport needs is just a tougher taxi.
I agree with Ian; while minibuses are dangerous due to their sturcture (thin roofs, high center of gravity), the fault also lies with drivers. In todays Gulf News, a minibus driver unabashedly admits to driving when tired and in being "fast". He also calls accidents "fate" and says he doesnt really care if he loses his life. Such desperate, hard-headed people form the bulk of minibus (and truck drivers). I have also asked some taxi drivers why they drive recklessly, and they claimed they are brave and not "cowards", which is how they refer to many safer drivers.
I think most of us living here in the UAE can acknowledge the common bad practice of sudden lane switching without indicators, from both the left and right side of vehicles, thus preventing even the most diligent of drivers to be able to move safely to the next lane. Given that this moronic behavior will probably never cease, to help preserve life, the very least we could do is to restrict 'multiple people carriers' to the inner 2 lanes on highways. Yes, accidents will still happen but maybe a few less lives will be lost by giving the drivers of these vehicles more time to think which they are obviously lacking under present conditions.
The main reason for the accidents involving mini-buses is speed. Even though they are restricted to th einside two lanes on the highways the drivers tend to speed and often flashing lights on other drivers who may be driving at th emax speed limit. Their driving behaviour is very intolerant towards other road users. This attitude of getting tryig to get there first without care of safety or comfort of their passengers leads to mishaps & fatalities. They need to be educated in proper and safe driving habits. Every time a mini-cab driver is involved in a fatal or near fatal accident he should spend one week without pay working as orderly in accident & emergency ward of hospital to see the consequences of reckless driving.