x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

UAE companies with drivers 'should take lead in reducing bad driving'

Safety experts suggest corporations can help improve road safety with better driver training.

DUBAI // Companies that use delivery vans or motorcycles should be responsible for their drivers being safe on the road in a bid to reduce the number of traffic accidents.

Those businesses should not only educate their staff on safety matters, but take initiatives to turn them into better drivers, said David Atkinson, a strategic marketing consultant, on the sidelines of the GCC Fatal and Horrific Accidents and Prevention conference yesterday.

"The private sector - particularly companies deriving revenue from the road - needs to demonstrate its leadership," he said. "We want employees and their families to be safe and we want safe customers."

The Government has already installed the infrastructure for safe driving, he said. The UAE is listed in the World Economic Forum's Global Enabling Trade Report 2012 as one of only 17 countries whose road network is 100 per cent paved. The country is ranked 11th globally in terms of the availability and quality of transport infrastructure.

N_K_D Pizza in Dubai, which has 130 delivery motorbikes, has already taken the initiative to make safety a priority and will soon conduct a workshop with police in Dubai. It will involve classroom study and practical motorbike training in a controlled environment.

"For us it's the image of our company," said Ian Ohan, area developer for N_K_D in the GCC and India. "What impression is given on the roads is important. Financially its makes sense and from a human, ethical and moral point, it makes sense."

He said N_K_D has a strict disciplinary policy and spends extra time training its drivers on the road. "Most of these evolve around safety and also with how they treat the customer," Mr Ohan said.

Generally, delivery drivers need only a motorbike licence to work and no further training is required.

Reckless driving would damage N_K_D's reputation, Mr Ohan said. "Our brand and image is vital."

Mr Atkinson said change will only happen if 20 to 30 businesses commit to altering their driving habits.

"They must say they really want to make a serious impact on this issue, and believe they can. The way to do that is invest in the process, find the technology and the things that create an experiential atmosphere for the staff."

He said companies must engage with "the wider public in shopping malls, in schools and universities where young drivers begin to drive and put them though the experience of the issues about it".

Mr Atkinson cited Total, the petroleum company, for making inroads into safety, and BMW for giving away child-safety seats.

"These are all good initiatives and what we need now is harder-hitting messages," he said. "More dramatic presentation of what reality is and we need wider collaboration and for a more sustained period."

Ali Al Kamali, managing director of Datamatix, the event organiser, said despite media efforts, the message needs to be spread wider.

He said the problem lay somewhere within the issue of driving licences and the private sector where drivers should be provided with more training. "The drivers should not be overloaded with their job," he said.

eharnan@thenational.ae