Bangladesh’s road safety conundrum

No directives producing desired results

Published : 23 Aug 2019 07:42 PM | Updated : 06 Sep 2020 11:41 PM

It is alarming to note that at least 224 people have been killed in road accidents across the country between August 6 and August 17. Another 866 people have also been injured in 203 accidents recorded across the country.  Reportedly, most of the fatalities occurred when holidaymakers were travelling to their respective ancestral homes and returning to the capital prior to and after Eid-ul-Adha.

Scrutinizing the way road accident took place in Bangladesh during this Eid-ul-Adha, one can say that most of the road safety measures taken over the last few years have gone in vein. Every time the gravity of road safety issues gets intensified when any student dies of road accident. Protesters blocking roads and seeking the highest punishment of the perpetrators have become very common repercussions of any gruesome road accident. After every incident of road crash we hear pledges from the BRTA, police, and other transport authorities of taking effective measures. But all fade away within the layers of time which is why the procession of deaths on the roads never stops. 

Following the last year’s students movement, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina issued a five-point directive in June to prevent road accidents. A special committee was formed too on 4 September to prevent road accidents and develop traffic systems. But most of the decisions and recommendations have not been materialised. Moreover, the act passed last year to ensure punishment of the law violators has rendered ineffective too due to the protests of the transport owners and workers.

However, of late, the National Road Safety Council (NRSC) recommended forming a task force to bring discipline on roads and highways and control accidents. Besides, NRSC submitted a 111 point recommendation to the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA). The committee formed earlier to restore discipline in the transport sector and control road accidents across the country also recommended taking 50 immediate, 32 short-term and 29 long term programs in this regard.

Scrutinizing the way road accident took

 place in Bangladesh during this Eid-ul-Adha, 

one can say that most of the road safety measures 

taken over the last few years have gone in vein

The committee led by former Shipping Minister Shahjahan Khan submitted the recommendations to the Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader at the Secretariat in the city. We are told that the ministry is planning to form a task force to control road mishaps and bring discipline in the transport sector following the proposal given by the committee. Reportedly, the final decision will be made at the meeting of the national road safety council scheduled to be held on September 5. It is good to note that the government is taking steps to ensure road safety which has long been sidelined in the government’s development agenda. We hope the Ministry of Road Transport and Bridges will prudently scrutinize the doctrines of the recommendations given by NRSC and come up with newer solution to control road accidents across the country.

 Road accidents are common phenomenon in every country around the world. What makes them different is that other countries punish the responsible ones, but the culprits are always at large here in Bangladesh. The Kolkata police too in India have arrested the driver of the vehicle that killed two Bangladeshis in Kolkata on Friday. Whom have the police detained so far here in connection with the road accidents during Eid that killed many people? Has any official of any organisation been brought to answer?

Transportation experts blame unfit vehicles, unskilled drivers and reckless driving as the core reasons behind the staggering number of road accidents. Many bus owners recruit drivers considering personal relationship and recommendations of known people without properly examining their driving skill. What is more saddening is that a number of unscrupulous BRTA officials provide licence to the unskilled drivers and fitness certificates to the unfit vehicles without giving any test. As a result, a huge number of unskilled drivers get chance to ply their vehicles on roads illegally. As long as the gruesome practice of giving license to the unskilled drivers and unfit vehicles is not stopped, the grisly procession of deaths on the roads would continue unabated.

When the authorities concerned cannot maintain integrity in terms of giving certificates to drivers and vehicles, it is not pragmatic indeed to expect those drivers who buy licence through unfair means will maintain discipline on the roads. In this regard, a strong monitoring body equipped with modern technology and adequate manpower should be devised immediately. What we all want now is to see severe steps taken by the authorities concerned to punish those responsible for these deaths.

 Therefore, in order to reinforce road safety transport owners must scrutinize the driving skill of the drivers before recruiting. Authorities concerned should take immediate measures to improve the current road safety issues, such as examining driver’s skill and vehicle fitness, discouraging reckless driving, improving the traffic police control system and ensuring more cooperation between the drivers and owners.

It is high time that Bangladesh takes stern actions against reckless driving. In order to ensure road safety for all, the design and quality of the roads and highways must be improved; unfit vehicles should not be allowed on the roads and there should be mass awareness on traffic rules. Also in order to maintain discipline on roads, the idea of Black Box can play an effective role. It will not cost more than Tk 10 thousand but will definitely help monitor vehicular speed and other movements. Also there is a need to set up an adequate number of CCTV cameras which will help in investigation of accidents in city streets.

Sayeed  Hossain Shuvro is  

Editorial Assistant,  Bangladesh Post

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