ABU DHABI // Having the right attitude when driving buses is as important as practical training, instructors say.
"Our roads are used by drivers each day who do not respect and appreciate that driving is a life skill that requires one single, critical element - the understanding and embracing of a safe driving culture," said Dino Kalivas, the director of training at Emirates Driving Company (EDC).
Craig Sherrin, chief executive of the company, added: "Accidents that happen out there probably happened not because the people lacked the technical driving skills, but because they haven't fully developed the high cognitive skills and the anticipation."
There are several classes of licence required to work as a bus driver in the UAE, including a heavy-vehicle permit for those driving worker transport buses, and a licence for school buses.
Requirements differ between driving schools and emirates, but generally the licence requires about eight hour-long theory lessons on topics such as traffic rules, route planning and how to respond in an emergency.
Learners also have at least 40 practical classes to learn basic vehicle operation - such as hill starts and reversing - and driving in light and heavy traffic.
The test, conducted in Dubai by the Roads and Transport Authority and in other emirates by the Ministry of Interior through police, consists of a theory test, a yard test and a road test.
The drivers must pass a medical test and provide a certificate of good behaviour from the police.
To drive a school bus, further training and licensing is required.
In Dubai, drivers attend a seven-hour course that covers boarding and alighting students, defensive driving and dealing with passengers with special needs.
"All school bus drivers must attend basic training courses covering all matters related to driving school buses, including how to deal with children and emergency situations," said a spokesman for Emirates Transport, which operates all public and some private school buses in the country.
"Bus drivers are governed by a detailed and strict code of conduct which includes specific job requirements and orders and penal codes in case of failure to adhere to each of them.
"A system of black points is used to assess drivers who commit discrepancies of any kind."
Under the black points system, no bus driver can exceed 20 for administrative irregularities - such as breaching the dress code or tardiness - or field irregularities, which include breaking traffic rules or leaving the doors unlocked while the vehicle is moving.
The maximum combined limit allowed is 24 black points. If a driver gets more than this they are immediately terminated.
Sulaiman Saeed, 27, a heavy vehicle and bus driving instructor at Al Nasser Driving School in Abu Dhabi, said learning to deal with passengers was crucial.
"They should take a lot of care and ensure no one is standing inside the bus," he said.
Safe driving, Mr Kalivas agreed, was about more than the mechanics of driving.
"It is all about driving attitude, behaviour and self-respect," he said.
* With reporting by Ramona Ruiz, Mohammed Al Khan and Anna Zacharias