Dubai: A top police official has called for a ban on the use of minibuses by school transport operators in Dubai.
“Minibuses in general should be banned. The nine- and 14-seat minibuses are very unsafe. Around 15 to 20 people die every year in accidents involving these vehicles,” said Maj Gen Engr Mohammad Saif Al Zafein, Director of the General Traffic Department at Dubai Police and Member of the board of Directors at the Dubai Transport Corporation.
He was addressing a session on school bus safety at the International School Transport Conference 2013 in Dubai.
Maj Gen Engr Al Zafein said there are 15,000-20,000 minibuses in Dubai, contributing to about 12 per cent of accidents on average every year. “I am not saying these involve schoolchildren but they are very dangerous.”
In Abu Dhabi too there has been a demand for a ban on minibuses. Forty-five students had a close shave when a mini-van hit their bus near Al Maqta Bridge last May. The van’s driver died on the spot and seven children were injured. More recently, 22 labourers were killed and 24 others were injured when a truck rammed into the minibus in Al Ain in February.
Maj Gen Engr Al Zafein said “The centre of gravity in an average minibus is quite high and a full load worsens matters. The bus can easily turn over on a curve because of the centre of gravity and speed. The design of the seats puts passengers too close for comfort. Moreover, there are no emergency exits as in regular buses.”
He said the practice of notifying speed limits on buses should be done away with as these limits cannot be applicable on all roads. “The speed limit depends on the road. You cannot be driving at 80km/h on a community road.”
He also suggested schools should consider starting late to ease traffic. “The timings can be delayed by half an hour. They can start at 8.30am instead of 8am and finish by 2pm instead of 1.30pm. This will facilitate the flow of traffic.”
He also said schools on main roads pose a problem. Some schools do not have adequate parking and anxious parents wanting to drop off their children at the gate block the way for the others, causing a traffic jam.
“There are many violations in school zones as people park their cars on pavements and other undesignated areas. This is a major concern.”