Campaigner calls for minibus drivers to require special licences to boost safety

Dubai transport conference told regulations need to be tightened after string of minibus accidents

A fatal minibus crash in Dubai last month has reignited a debate over the safety of the vehicles. Courtesy Dubai Police
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A safety campaigner called for minibus drivers to require a special licence amid concerns over the number of fatal crashes involving the vehicles on the UAE's roads.

Thomas Edelmann, managing director of Road Safety UAE, said regulations need to be tightened up to prevent further tragedy.

He lamented the number of passengers packed into minibuses "like sardines" during a Dubai transport conference held by his organisation and facilities management company Serco Middle East on Thursday.

With more than 50,000 minibuses in Dubai alone, often carrying more than 15 passengers, it was imperative that safety checks became a regular occurrence, said Mr Edelmann.

“Too many passengers are packed into minibuses like sardines,” he said.

“The UAE should introduce a special licence for minibus drivers that is renewed every two years, depending on how clean their driving record is.

“At the moment anyone who can drive a car is allowed to drive a minibus, that needs to change.”

His message came after a fatal smash involving a minibus in Dubai last month prompted renewed calls for the immediate ban of the vehicles.

The crash, in which eight labourers died while travelling to work, was likely the result of poor driving and safety precautions, police said.

The minibus carrying 14 people hit a heavy goods vehicle parked on the hard shoulder of Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Road, near City Centre Mirdif mall, on Monday, September 30.

The driver and seven passengers were pronounced dead at the scene. Six survivors were taken to hospital.

In response, a senior official at Dubai Police called for an immediate nationwide ban on minibuses.

“I have been making this plea for many years now,” said Maj Gen Mohammed Al Zafeen, assistant commander-in-chief and chairman of the Federal Traffic Council.

“These minibuses are more like sardine cans and are exposed to traffic disasters all the time because they lack the most basic security and safety standards,” he said.

“They are unsafe and it is truly sad to repeat this warning every time a horrific accident happens.”

He said the buses did not adequately protect passengers, as they lacked a front crumple zone.

Brig Saif Al Mazroui, general traffic department director at Dubai Police, agreed, saying “accidents involving trucks or vans often lead to catastrophic outcomes”.

Brig Al Mazroui said the crash was the latest in a series of minibus accidents this year that killed passengers or left survivors with life-changing injuries.

In July, three people died and eight were injured when a minibus hit a lorry on Emirates Road, heading towards Sharjah.

Police said similar minivans have been connected to 34 other accidents in Dubai over the past eight months, killing one person and injuring 34 more.