High-visibility jackets must be worn and better training must be given to cut the number of accidents involving motorcyclists, experts say.
There have been more than 400 accidents involving motorcycles between 2013 and 2016, Dubai Police said on Thursday. Many of them could have been avoided with basic safety measures in place.
Speaking at the first UAE motorcycle delivery fleet safety forum organised by Road Safety UAE and supported by Dubai Police, Ian Littlefield, a training manager at Dubai Driving Centre, said motorcyclists are among the most vulnerable road users.
Motorcycle users in the UAE are 30 times more likely to be involved in a major traffic accident than car drivers and they are at greatest risk at road junctions, Mr Littlefield said.
“At a junction, the first things a driver looks for are trucks and other cars – the thing least being looked for is motorcycles.”
He said about 33 per cent of road fatalities involve company car drivers or motorbike riders.
Part of the problem, Mr Littlefield said, was that delivery drivers often speed, because they are under pressure to deliver food on time.
"If a pizza delivery doesn't arrive in 15 minutes, it will be delivered free," he said.
“Someone will have to pay for this pizza and it will be the guy who delivered it late. This is the kind of pressure this group of drivers is facing,” he said.
About 1.24 million people a year die as a result of road traffic accidents worldwide.
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In Dubai, 26 people died in motorbike accidents in 2015 and 2016 combined. According to the emirate's General Department of Traffic, 122 motorcycle accidents were reported last year, in which 138 people were injured and 16 people died. In 2015, 125 motorbike accidents were reported to police, causing 141 injuries and 10 deaths.
Yesterday, road safety campaigners and officials from Dubai Police, the Roads and Transport Authority and companies offering courier services said training, education and road-user awareness were crucial to protecting motorcyclists.
Capt Salim Alamimi of Dubai Police's traffic department said food delivery services are very popular in the country, indicating that the curbing of accident and protection of motorcyclists is a high priority.
A representative from McDonald’s said about 900 drivers work for them across the UAE.
Capt Alamimi said education and training were key to reducing traffic accidents involving motorbike drivers.
“The knowledge of drivers in Dubai is different because there are many nationalities living here. Each one comes from their country and brings their driving knowledge,” he said before screening a video showing a compilation of motorcycle accidents.
“These were caused by motorists’ and motorcycle drivers’ errors and failure to follow police instructions. A motorbike driver is not as safe as a person driving an SUV. When motorbike drivers get in an accident, it usually will be fatal,” he said.
Capt Alamimi said the weight of a motorcyclists load also needed to be regulated.
“Safety comes first. The driver of a motorbike shouldn’t carry a heavy box. Sometimes, restaurant owners send a motorbike driver for ten deliveries at once,” he said.
A law which came into effect in June confines the maximum dimensions of a devliery motorcycle box to 50x50x50cm. But companies have a grace period until March next year to adjust the size of their courier boxes, according to Arif Malik, director of drivers training and qualifications at RTA.
A study conducted by Mr Edelmann showed that among 222 motorcycle users, 68 per cent said other drivers do not seem to notice them on roads.
“Motorbike drivers should wear fluorescent colour clothes,” Capt Alamimi said.
Ian Ohan, chief executive of Freedom Pizza, said the onus was on employers to ensure their drivers were more protected.
He said companies should prioritise the safety of drivers over the need to deliver food on time. “Our philosophy is that we rush on the store, so that our drivers don’t rush on their way.
"There is no delivery more important than somebody's life," Mr Ohan said.