KT for Good: Defensive driving must for safe motorbiking culture
Part 7 of our series explains how to pay attention to motorcyclists on roads.
Whenever you order food for delivery, do you also think of the safety of the rider who brings it?
Getting your food delivered at home or office is easy. Dial the number or open the app, and your meal will be on the table. Restaurant owners also know that delivering orders quickly is a good way to expand the business.
Safety of motorcycles - the prime mode of food delivery - however, is a big concern in the UAE. Every day, thousands of deliverymen across the country cope with life-threatening work-related risks and the number of deliverymen is growing by the day.
Many motorcycle riders have paid the price. A total of 42 people were killed; 89 seriously injured from 682 motorcycle accidents in Abu Dhabi from 2013-2017. In 2017, 17 motorcycle riders were killed from 122 accidents that took place on Dubai roads and a year before that, in 2016, there were 26 fatalities from 824 motorbike traffic accidents.
According to RoadSafetyUAE, the pressures of the job of a rider are constant. "Even though some restaurants and shops don't set strict time limits for deliveries, deliverymen know that they have to be quick. This pressure - and the fear of getting scolded by their employers - can make them literally zigzag through traffic, risking their lives and those of others," Thomas Edelmann, founder and managing director of RoadSafetyUAE, told Khaleej Times.
"Motorcycle delivery riders are expected to make deliveries with speed and efficiency because faster deliveries could also mean tips from customers. But such pressure can, unfortunately, lead to unsafe driving and riders tend to swerve between different lanes, make illegal U-turns, swing past pedestrian walkways and cut between cars," Edelmann added.
So, what has to be done to improve riders' safety? Road safety experts and deliverymen suggest a concerted and collective action to solve the problem. "For starters, the attitude of customers has to change when it comes to being impatient when their orders are running late," said Pakistani rider Zeeshan Farooq. "Yes, we always do our best to deliver on time but I hope we will not rush and be reckless so the next number we dial are emergency numbers.
"The focus must be on the motorcycle delivery segment. This segment has been booming in the last couple of years and we see quite a bit of reckless driving of delivery riders. The responsibility to cascade a safe driving culture lies with the fleet operators. They must provide safe and well-maintained bikes to their riders and make sure that riders get enough training as well as proper protective gear," Edelmann emphasised.
Education drive is also paramount. "The main killers on our roads remain lane swerving, speeding, tailgating, distracted driving and so on and we have to tackle these issues in a holistic manner with a sense of urgency," Edelmann reiterated.
Another suggestion, although a long-shot, is to have a specific lane for motorcycles on major highways. "Segregating motorcyclists is quite a good idea as they are very vulnerable on Dubai's roads but I'm not sure how it would work at entry and exit points," said Ian Littlefield, training and quality manager at the Dubai Driving Centre.
"It could be something like the high occupancy lanes in the US or like the bus and taxi lanes here."
Know the law
In June 2017, the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) in Dubai enforced regulations to reduce delivery motorbike accidents, including not allowing pillion riders on the bike and ensuring that reflector strips were attached to the bikes. There were also specific restrictions on the dimensions of storage boxes on motorbikes that should not be more than 50x50x50cm in size.
How to do it right: Safety tips for motorcycle riders
> Do not drink alcohol; do not use drugs; do not take medicines that can cause sleepiness, or affect reflexes and senses
> Do not ride if tired. Take breaks
> Avoid heavy meals before/while riding
> Wear clothing appropriate to the weather conditions
> Do not take medicines without checking with a doctor whether they affect driving abilities
> Consult a specialist if you think you are experiencing a high level of stress, feel depressed or get angry easily
> Do not use mobile phones while riding (even with headsets, the reaction time decreases significantly). Stop for the call
In the event of a crash:
> If there is a risk of being crushed, jump off the motorcycle
> Relax your body - bone fracture is more likely if muscles are contracted while falling.
> Do not try to get off the bike while sliding on the road - you could be injured more badly while trying to get off
In the traffic:
> Always drive defensively
> Keep in the centre of the lane
> Do not zigzag across the road
> If stuck in the jam, do not attempt to slip ahead between stationary cars as they will not expect to see you and may move suddenly.
Safety guide for motorcyclists during deliveries
Euan Air (director of safety and security, Careem)
When it comes to deliveries, many factors come into play in protecting the safety and security of bike riders - from ensuring that their vehicles are highly visible to other drivers, calibrating delivery times to remove the incentive to drive fast, protecting them from severe weather conditions.
At Careem, we approach it from three core principles: captain (rider) welfare and wellbeing, road safety, and using technology to drive safe practices.
When it comes to welfare, we have ongoing captain trainings, and we limit the number of their shift hours and provides free water during the summer months.
Staying safe on the road is one of the modules that the month-long training addresses as well as pushing regular safety messages through the captain app, bike safety checks and ongoing training and monitoring. There is also 24/7 emergency call centre support to all captains.
Technology plays a key role in our ability to optimise reaction times and identify issues as they happen in real-time. We utilise our engineering muscle by working on a machine learning and data science capability to monitor and predict driving behaviour.
Safety for customers and captains is the number one priority when building new products and services - how we keep captains safe on the roads, care for their welfare and leverage our technology, all play a critical role ahead of any launch.
As soon as we begin planning something new for the customer, we are already mapping out the safety and security measures we need to put in place.
The key is to develop solutions that address safety and security related issues specific to our region.