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Unqualified foreign drivers cause 60% accidents involving pilgrims

Unqualified foreign drivers who do not know how to drive buses and heavy vehicles are the cause of about 60 percent of the traffic accidents involving Haj pilgrims, Asharq Al-Awsat Arabic daily reported yesterday, quoting officials of private transport companies.

The company officials expressed their fears about the possibility of more such accidents, especially due to the recruitment of bus drivers from far off countries like Eastern Europe. Lt. Ali Al-Zahrani, deputy spokesman of the traffic department in Makkah, downplayed the number of bus accidents in the city, adding that it represented only 1 percent of the total.

“It’s very low compared to other countries,” he told the newspaper. Al-Zahrani said his department would not allow anyone to drive a bus if they did not possess a heavy vehicle driver’s license. Muhammad Ateef of Umm Al-Qura Transport Company said most transport companies recruited drivers from foreign countries for seasonal work during Haj and Umrah, adding that most of these drivers were not fully qualified to drive in the Kingdom.

Some Tawafa organizations ask their drivers to drive buses fast to reach their destinations. For example, they are told they have to reach Madinah from Makkah within three hours.

Khaled Al-Yahyawi, an investor in the sector, said about 100,000 pilgrims did not use buses for moving between the holy sites of Mina, Arafat and Muzdalifah.

Instead, they use the Mashair Railway. He estimated that about 60 percent of accidents were caused by unqualified drivers who did not follow basic safety rules.

A study conducted by the traffic department in Makkah found that human factors were the cause of 85 percent of accidents that took place in the holy city. The study pointed out that the main reasons for accidents were: speeding, unqualified drivers, traffic violations, lack of concentration by drivers and vehicular problems.

Source: Arab News