Nate Berg is a freelance reporter and a former staff writer for CityLab. He lives in Los Angeles.
A nice idea in theory that's nonetheless super unsafe.
Worker satisfaction is important, and keeping workers motivated is a smart-sounding managerial strategy. It's especially smart if the employee you're trying to motivate has the lives of 40 or 50 people in his or her hands. So it's both heartening and disheartening to see a potentially dangerous new effort coming out of Dubai to motivate bus drivers.
First the heartening part: Dubai's Roads and Transport Authority has begun sending motivational messages to their bus drivers, written in each driver's native language, according to this article from Gulf News.
Now the disheartening part: they're sending these motivational messages to the drivers via text message while they're driving the bus.
"The system will send two text messages to drivers in each shift via RTA Bus Control Centre in a bid to encourage drivers and uplift their morale, reduce traffic accidents and accordingly achieve higher levels of safety and security for passengers and road users," Eisa Abdul Rahman Al Dossary, CEO of RTA’s Public Transport Agency told Gulf News.
Uplifting driver morale sounds like a great idea. But there's something about pulling your phone out of your pocket to read a text message while you're driving a 10-ton bus that doesn't seem to mesh with the idea of reducing traffic accidents.
In fact, it may lead to more accidents. According to research [PDF] from the U.S. Department of Transportation, drivers are 23 times more likely to crash when they are reading or sending text messages. Crashing into a telephone pole is one surefire way to lower driver morale. And with car ownership steadily rising in Dubai to more than 56 percent this year, there will be more cars on the road that bus drivers will have to both see and avoid.
This idea needs to go back to the drawing board. There's got to be other ways to make drivers more motivated to do their jobs. How about a raise?