More than 100 sharing mini van taxis operate between Abu Dhabi city and its remote areas. Image Credit: Ahmed KuttyGulf News Archives

Dubai: UAE Federal Traffic Council is seeking a ban on passengers in minibuses by January 2018, a top official said on Wednesday.

Major General Mohammad Saif Al Zafein, Assistant Chief for Operations Affairs at Dubai Police, and Director of Federal Traffic Council, said that the council issued recommendation to stop renewing registration of minibuses for passenger transportation and only allow them to transport goods.

“We want to ban minibuses from transporting passengers. We have sent a recommendation to Ministry of Interior to ban the minibuses and hopefully the suggestion will be active law by January 2018,” General Al Zafein said.

He said minibuses will be registered only if they are used for other purposes, such as transporting goods.

He said that Lt Gen Shaikh Saif Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, had asked the council to cooperate with the Ministry of Health to conduct a study on the minibuses, especially the psychological side of the drivers. “Our suggestion to ban the minibuses from transporting passengers came as a result of the study which recommended to use it only for transporting goods,” Major General Al Zafein said.

Ten people were killed and 152 injured in 79 traffic accidents caused by minibuses last year. Dubai Police said the death toll reached 198 in 2016.

“The number of deaths on roads is increasing and minibuses are not a transportation vehicle. We see accidents due to over-speeding and packing such vehicles with people without safety measures taken into consideration.”

He continued: “Sometimes it’s the speed, the dangerous swerving or simply the driver being exhausted and half asleep at the wheel with people packed away in these killing machines on wheels. This cannot go on.”

“Minibuses, which are normally designed to carry 14 people are sometimes packed with 16 to 18 people, making it unsafe due to overcrowding and unstable when the driver is speeding. In many cases, the vehicles are overcrowded and unfit to transport people safely.”

He said that if there is a situation, there are no emergency exits, unlike regular buses, to facilitate escape.

In a major incident in July last year, a Toyota minibus carrying 20 people crashed into a stationary lorry on Emirates Road in Dubai, killing seven people and injuring 13.

Minibuses were banned from transporting schoolchildren in 2013.