Ban on mini-buses for school transportation under review
The statement will send shockwaves through the transport industry in the UAE as mini-buses are a widely used mode of transport.
Are we sending our children to school in what has been called ‘a coffin on wheels’?
The answer is “yes”, according to the Traffic Department of Dubai Police. “We are working in the field, we have the statistics. We know what we are talking about,” said Major General Mohammed Saif Al Zafeen.
Statistics show that in 2012 alone 11 per cent of all fatalities on the road involved a minibus.
Fifteen people died in accidents involving a minibus last year.
One of the reasons a minibus poses a danger to its passengers is because it could easily collapse. There is a central gravity, so the bus easily loses control, explains Al Zafeen.
“When the bus is driven at a high speed and goes into a curve, the bus could easily collapse. The bus should ideally be driven at a maximum speed of 80km/h, and without passengers,” he warned.
Currently, minibuses are allowed to be driven at a speed of 100km/h.
Another hazard is the limited space for passengers inside the bus.
“If an accident occurs, there is not a lot of space for passengers to move out, and this applies to 15-seat buses as well as 9 seat buses,” commented Al Zafeen.
“Minibuses are not safe for transportation of any human beings. It should be used only for the transport of goods. That is our advice to the public.”
Of the registered minibuses in the emirate of Dubai the majority is used in the school transportation sector, where the smaller buses form an economic contribution to the pick-up scheme.
Currently, the RTA is conducting a study to look into a ban on minibuses for school transportation. “We see that many private schools are hiring minibuses for the transportation of their pupils.
“It is a cheap means of transportation. But we do not want this to become a habit,” said Youssef al Ali, Director of the Public Transport Agency of Roads and Transport Authority (RTA).
“The mini-bus is not a safe transportation mode for children. There is no tutor available in the bus, and there is no emergency exit.
“In case of an accident, the mini-bus more easily lends itself to fatalities.”
RTA backs ban
Dubai Police has issued a warning to all road users in Dubai: the minibus is not safe. Not for children, nor for adults. It should not be used for any transportation of human beings.
RTA is against the use of both, nine and 15-seater mini-buses, and a ban is on the agenda, with the beginning of next academic year as a proposed deadline.
However, a ban is not easy to be realised, said Youssef. “That is why the proposal is studied at the moment; we are trying to find a solution for this.”
According to Al Zafeen parents have the right to ask their schools for a ban on the minibus.
“It is our responsibility to inform the public on road safety. We want people to be aware of the safety risks. We are raising a red flag,” he added.
However, the question remains whether this flag is seen across all fields where the minibus is used.
“Child safety is more important than anything,” said Youssef, explaining why the focus is on school transportation at the moment.
Mini-buses are used, among other things, for the transportation of company staff, tourism, and individual use.
It is not clear whether these sectors will be subjected to safety review as well.