A trailer overturned on Damascus Street, Al Ghusais on Thursday. Image Credit: Partha Mazumder/Gulf News

Dubai: A staggering number of heavy vehicle drivers in the UAE have no idea about safe or defensive driving, according to a recent survey.

Conducted by the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) and Tristar Transport, the survey conducted during Gulf Traffic Week in March covered truck and bus drivers.

According to the survey, around 34 per cent of drivers involved in an accident don’t believe accidents occur due to human error. Traffic statistics suggest most accidents happen due to human error.

Moreover, 24 per cent of drivers surveyed believe that accidents are an act of God.

According to statistics provided by RTA, heavy vehicles are responsible for 12 per cent of accidents on Dubai highways.

Last month, an accident involving a heavy truck and a bus killed 13 people, while another accident involving a school bus killed one person and injured 15 pupils.

Authorities are working at various levels to tackle the issue of reckless driving and RTA is focusing on providing the right education as a prevention method. It has revamped the heavy vehicle driver’s training curriculum, while it is also hosting regular educational programmes in association with private sector for existing drivers.

As part of its awareness programme ‘Let’s reach home safely’, RTA in collaboration with Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) from the UK and Tristar Transport recently kickstarted a series of workshops that trains heavy vehicle drivers on a number of issues including defensive driving, vehicle maintenance, rest etc.

The programme was launched last week at RTA’s Al Aweer Bus Depot, following which around 500 drivers from various companies have been trained on defensive driving.

“Our primary focus is training drivers on keeping safe distance between vehicles and showing them the importance of avoiding distractions while driving and how to do basic maintenance of vehicles,” said Hussain Al Banna, Director of Traffic at RTA’s Traffic and Roads Agency.

He added that the training is being conducted keeping the survey in mind and interacting with the drivers about their experience on road and explaining them the details of the findings and how it can have positive impact on their driving habits.

The survey has covered Pakistanis who make up to 57.4 per cent of heavy vehicle drivers; 29.4 per cent Indians, 7.4 per cent Jordanians, 2.9 per cent Egyptians and 1.5 per cent Yemenis and Bangladeshis.

One of the key focuses of the training, which will be an ongoing exercise, driving home the importance of taking regular breaks and having enough rest.

The survey has shown that many drivers were driving up to 18 hours in a day and about 23 per cent of the drivers do not get at least 8 hours sleep daily.

“This suggests they should be educated on fatigue management as road statistics also show that fatigue is a major cause of accidents by heavy duty truck drivers,” said Al Banna.

The survey also found that most heavy vehicle drivers are experienced, having been driving for an average of 10.5 years, with the longest duration of 35 years and the shortest duration of at less than a year.

The average age of heavy vehicle drivers is 35.4 years old, with the oldest at 53 and the youngest at 24.

Interestingly most driver – 98% of them – said their vehicles are in good condition, though stats reflect that poor maintenance is one of the major causes of accidents.

On a positive note 94 of the drivers survey showed interest in attending any free defensive driving training.

Rest areas

As part of its efforts in improving driving conditions, RTA recently opened the first of 24 planned heavy vehicle rest areas on Dubai’s highways, with six more coming up by the end of this year.

The parking facilities, each of which can accommodate up to 30 heavy vehicles, various services that meet the needs of drivers and workers such as hotel rooms, petrol stations, medical clinic, shops and maintenance services.

Al Banna revealed that of the remaining 18 rest areas that RTA is planning to develop over the next three years, three will have at least 100 truck parking spaces, apart from having facilities like truck registration, fuel stations, restaurants and entertainment facilities.