x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Bus accidents blamed on human and technical faults

Technical faults and human error are the two major causes of bus accidents, according to the drivers of labourers’ buses.

Shireen Zada, a bus driver from Pakistan, transports labourers from their camps to worksites. Mona Al Marzooqi / The National
Shireen Zada, a bus driver from Pakistan, transports labourers from their camps to worksites. Mona Al Marzooqi / The National

ABU DHABI // Technical faults and human error are the two major causes of bus accidents, according to the drivers of labourers’ buses.

They said that mobile-phone use while driving, drivers not getting enough sleep and older buses with outdated braking equipment also play a role.

Most of the buses are fitted with air braking systems, which often fail, the drivers said.

“All workers’ buses should be fitted with hydraulic braking systems. In an emergency these brakes [air brakes] do not work and accidents happen,” said Shireen Zada, a Pakistani who has been driving buses in Abu Dhabi for the past seven years.

If your speed is high, the air brake will not work because it needs to be pumped two to three times for braking, he said.

Mr Zada also said that some drivers drink alcohol at weekends.

Summer is the most hectic season for bus drivers because they have to wake up at 4am and find it difficult to sleep. This means they are driving when tired, which can result in road accidents.

Other drivers say that some stay awake when they should be sleping.

“If they finish dinner at 8pm, they should go to bed at 9pm, but they don’t. Instead they watch TV and play cards. And I found some drivers don’t sleep at all and surf the internet, talk to their families and watch television,” Mr Zada said.

Another Pakistani bus driver, Zayed Iqbal, 39, said: “Bus drivers dare to lead such unorganised lives. Thus, they put their lives and lives of other workers at high risk.”

Among other reasons Mr Iqbal said are the family pressure for money and disputes back home, which puts extra stress on them and can make them lose concentration when driving.

“We take rest during the day and go to bed early so we can wake up early in the morning, otherwise driving becomes very difficult,” said Mr Iqbal, who earns Dh2,500 a month.

Generally, companies do not provide training to drivers and simply instruct them to follow road-safety guidelines and not to speed.

Mohammed Khalil, a business partner at Saeed Al Zaabi General Transport Establishment in Mussaffah, said: “We provide instructions and encourage them to follow traffic rules and drive safely”.

“We run 44 buses for transport workers and 22 in different Abu Dhabi schools. We only employ those who are well trained and possess a valid UAE licence. That’s why so far, no major accident has happened,” Mr Khalil said.

Mohammed Akram, a public relations officer at Ambassador Gold Transport in Abu Dhabi, said: “We don’t provide them training, already they are well trained by driving schools.

“If they are not trained and not aware of road and driving rules how they will get a licence. It’s not easy to get a licence here, it takes months of rigorous training,” said Mr Akram, whose company provides 36 buses for labourers and 14 for schools.

Workers have also called for more safety precautions on buses.

Indira Roy, 26, from Nepal, lives at the Workers Village in Mussaffah.

“Buses need to be fitted with more safety features, and air-conditioning, as most buses do not have it.

“Most drive recklessly and that is the reason for accidents and when they talk over the phone,” said Mr Roy, who works at the vegetable and fruit market and earns Dh1,500 a month.

Mohammed Othman, 24, earns Dh1,050 as a gardener, said: “Our lives are in Allah’s hand, we just sit and don’t think much. If anything has to happen you can’t avoid that.

“Sometimes drivers speed up but then they have to slow down due to traffic ahead and when they leave their designated lanes to further speed up accidents occur,” Mr Othman said.

anwar@thenational.ae