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Moudud Ahmmed Sujan
Although the authorities have implemented many of the measures for road safety in a positive response to the 10-day-long student movement, road safety still remains a far cry with the main obstacles mostly untouched.
On August 8, 2018, the Secretary General of Bangladesh Road Transport Owners’ Association, Khandakar Enayetullah, announced to put drivers on a monthly payroll instead of the current contractual payment system. On September 4, Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) commissioner Md Asaduzzaman Mia also announced that the route permit of transport companies will be cancelled if their drivers are not brought under the monthly payroll system.
However, no progress has been made to adopt the system for bus staff members, despite the elapsing of almost two months. Meanwhile, the combined management of all city bus companies has remained like ‘a climb to Everest,’ without which, according to experts, the problem will not be solved fully. Due to the massive drive by different government agencies, the situation has improved, and is much better in some aspects, including increase in people’s awareness, according to experts.

As of October 1, 2018, the DMP has filed 2,53,572 cases over violation of traffic rules, while around Tk16.58 crore has been in the form of fines against the cases.

The most punitive measures have been taken against motorbikes which number 1, 03, 582, according to the DMP traffic department.

Meanwhile, some 15 people have died in road accidents only inside Dhaka city, sources said.

Recently, the death of a TV official when a bus ploughed into his bike in Dhaka’s Jahangir Gate area, has renewed people’s concern over road safety.

Experts say, there are multiple reasons for which casualties on the roads are still on the rise on a daily basis. The unruly mentality of the drivers as well as uncontrolled speed is blamed for 90 percent of road accidents, according to a study by the Accident Research Institute (ARI) of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET).

The study was completed through analyzing statistics of road accidents in the 1998 to 2015 period.

Shahnewaz Hasanat-E-Rabbi, lecturer at ARI, told Bangladesh Post, “People are using footover bridges and zebra crossings more than they did previously in presence of police and scout members. But in the absence of police, many of them are still not using over bridges. The lack of pedestrian-friendly infrastructure is still a major cause. However, it cannot be said that the government authorities are not doing anything.”

Sources said neither the owners nor the staffs of buses are willing to implement the monthly payroll system.

On Monday, Shakil, an 18 year-old bus conductor of Gazipur-Gulistan Paribahan told this correspondent that they are not willing to go under the monthly payroll system.

Shakil said, “I earn Tk 1000 to Tk 1200 everyday, after paying the bus owner and other costs. How much would I get under a monthly payroll system?”

About this, Shahnewaz Hasanat-E-Rabbi said, “One of the major reasons behind chaos on the roads is the trip-based earning system. As a result, the drivers compete with each other to get more passengers. Unless the bus staffs are brought under the monthly payroll system, the situation will not improve.”

He also suggested that the authorities take help of technology as a mid-term solution.

He said, “Black box could be an effective solution for this. It will cost not more than Tk 10 thousand, but will help monitor vehicle speed and other movements.”

Citing a recent accident investigation in Mohakhali area, he also said that setting up sufficient CCTV cameras which will help in investigation of accidents on city streets.

As of March 2018, the number of registered vehicles across the country was 3419884, while the number of licensed drivers was 18.9 lakh, according to the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA).

About this, Shahnewaz Hasanat-E-Rabbi said, “It is a major weakness in the implementing of road safety measures. Government authorities should bring the drivers under regular training. It will create awareness among them. Besides, combined transport management in Dhaka city is a must. Otherwise, only punitive measures will not be able to bring a permanent solution in the transport sector.”