ABU DHABI // Experts have called for more stringent safety measures and enforcement of seat-belt laws to prevent deaths in minibus crashes.
A Toyota minibus carrying 20 crashed into a stationary lorry on Emirates Road in Dubai on Tuesday, killing seven people and injuring 13.
Police blamed the acident on human error. The Federal Traffic Council had recommended that minibuses should carry goods, not people, saying the vehicles are often overcrowded.
Minibus safety has long been an issue in the UAE, said Glenn Havinoviski, associate vice president of the US traffic management company Iteris.
“I am most concerned about businesses that are unwilling to pay the cost to keep their vehicles safe for the road and keep their drivers trained to drive properly and keep up with the flow of traffic while not breaking any laws,” he said.
He and Robert Hodges, chief operating officer at Emirates Driving Institute in Dubai, ruled out an outright ban, but said safety could be improved.
“There are several ways in which laws and better driving methods would reduce deaths and injuries caused by drivers of the minibuses, rather than the minibus itself,” Mr Hodges said.
Minibuses figure in the top two most dangerous vehicles and should have supplementary internal roll bars to maintain structural integrity in roll-over incidents.
“When laden with passengers, a minibus has a high centre of gravity, which makes it unstable and more inclined to topple or roll in an accident,” he said.
Annual vehicle checks should be more stringent, and police should have patrols dedicated to carrying out spot checks on minibuses, Mr Hodges said.
Col Jamal Al Bannai, deputy director of the Dubai traffic department, said the minibus in Tuesday’s crash was not overcrowded and blamed the incident on human error.
“It has nothing to do with the vehicle or what kind of vehicles were involved.” But, he said, the number of minibuses on the roads had decreased in recent years, after authorities lowered their speed limit to 100 kilometres an hour and limited the number of passengers they could carry.
Dubai Police have urged companies to reconsider transporting employees in minibuses because of the Federal Traffic Council recommendation, but the request has not been approved by the Ministry of Interior.
Minibus users say they feel safe in the vehicles, but some admit they do not wear seat belts.
For many Abu Dhabi residents, nine-seater minibuses are a preferred mode of transport because they cost the same as public buses to Dubai, Sharjah and the Western Region.
Wajahat Jamal, 29, a graphic designer who works in Dubai, said it usually took two hours for the public bus to reach the emirate, but half an hour less in a minibus.
Nawab Khan, 50, who has been driving a minibus to Dubai for the past eight years, said he did not ask passengers to buckle up.
“I drive between 100 and 110kph and I’ve not been involved in any accident,” he said.
Strict enforcement of the seatbelt law is needed, said Sonal Ahuja, regional director of PTV Group, which provides consultancy services for traffic and transport planning.
* Additional reporting by Dana Moukhallati
Deadly trail of bus accidents
July 13, 2016: Twelve workers were injured after their minibus crashed into a palm tree in RAK.
October 24, 2014: One person was killed and three injured when a pick-up swerved into a minibus in Al Quoz, Dubai.
September 25, 2014: One person was killed and three injured in an accident on the Dubai Mall bridge involving a car and a minibus.
May 10, 2014: Thirteen labourers were killed and more than a dozen injured when their bus hit a lorry on Emirates Road, Dubai.
July 13, 2013: Three people died and 16 were injured when a bus flipped over in Fujairah.
July 6, 2013: A man was killed and 16 were injured when a 4×4 hit a minibus on Al Qudra Road in Dubai.
July 5, 2013: A minibus driver ran a red light and was killed in a crash at the junction of Beirut and Amman roads in Dubai.
February 4, 2013: Two Asian workers were killed and 18 injured after a collision between two minibuses near the Al Ruwayyah bridge on the way to Sharjah.
* Ramona Ruiz
Source: uae news