x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 July 2017

Final nail for those unsafe minibuses

There are thousands of drivers of minibuses working in the UAE, and many will have to be retrained on new equipment.

Among the many topics that preoccupy parents of school-age children, the interconnected subjects of who takes their children to school, and by what mode of transport, are prominent. Both questions demand pause for thought and, on occasion, generate some grave cause for concern.

Parents have a right to expect their children to be safe when journeying to and returning from school, yet often they have little option but to pack their children onto minibuses each day during the academic year.

Sadly, such 12-to-15 seat minibuses, a common sight on our roads, are often lacking in adequate modern safety features. In addition, their high centre of gravity, heavy rear axles, unequal weight distribution and relatively small size can make them far more dangerous than other, larger types of buses.

According to official statistics, in the opening months of this year, two people have been killed and 63 injured in 30 collisions involving such vehicles. Fortunately, this sad state of affairs may be about to change.

As The National reported on Sunday, the Dubai Road and Transport Authority (RTA), which has described such small vehicles as "coffins on wheels", has asked schools and their associated transport providers to stop using these minibuses when schools reopen in September after the long summer recess.

This change is intended to reduce the number of accidents, and increase the peace of mind of parents. The issue of the cost of the change-over, and how it will be reflected in fees, will not be quite as soothing, but most parents will be prepared to pay for greater safety.

The transition will not however be simple. There are thousands of drivers of minibuses working in the UAE, and many will have to be retrained on new equipment. It is worth noting that most of these drivers are experienced, competent and law-abiding road users. But this cannot be said of all of them, and it is always incumbent upon those who police the roads to ensure that unsafe drivers are appropriately penalised.

Many accidents are caused by poor lane discipline, speeding and generally erratic driving. Such accidents could easily be prevented if drivers exercised a degree of caution and followed the traffic rules.