From January to August this year 2,852 people were killed in 2,604 accidents on roads
Two buses of Bihanga and Welcome Paribahan, going from Banglamotor to Shahbagh, were in a race to get ahead of each other on Sunday.
As they reached the signal near Hotel Intercontinental, their competition reached a dangerous point with a motorcycle caught between the two racing buses. Luckily, the motorcycle and its passengers were not harmed in the end.
Earlier, on 4 June a bus of Bihanga Paribahan that was going from Shahbagh to the Banglamotor signal at 60 kilometres per hour eventually ran over a motorcycle, killing the motorcyclist and a passenger.
These two recent incidents on one of the busiest roads in Dhaka city reflect the poor nature of road safety all over the country.
From January to August this year 2,852 people were killed in 2,604 road accidents, while 3,971 people died from 3,702 road crashes during the same period last year, according to Jatri Kalyan Samity, an organisation working towards ensuring the welfare of passengers.
Although public transportation systems were closed for more than two months during the general holidays over the Covid-19 pandemic and the number of vehicles on the roads was lower than in normal times since the holidays ended, the deaths caused by road accidents have not decreased significantly.
Organisations working on road safety and passengers' rights have opined that reckless driving, overtaking, faults in road design, unfit vehicles, unskilled drivers, lack of awareness on the part of passengers and pedestrians, use of mobile phones or headphones while driving vehicles, drunk driving, occupied footpaths and poor enforcement of the law are the principal causes behind road accidents in the country.
Confusion over bus fares is another problem that passengers suffer from regularly. Almost all the buses are charging extra fare and conductors often get involved in scuffles with passengers over the issue.
According to the new law, displaying fare charts is mandatory for all buses, but they rarely follow the rule.
All these turn the roads dangerous for passengers on any type of vehicle. Pedestrians too are at risk in such a situation.
Professor Shamsul Hoque, a transport expert and former director of the Accident Research Institute (ARI) at Buet, opined that the government has failed to ensure road safety in the country.
He told The Business Standard, "The chaos on roads has been increasing gradually in recent times rather than decreasing. The new law could not be implemented yet due to a lack of proper planning."
For a healthy transport system we need to develop the 3E system – engineering and planning, education and enforcement
"Reckless driving and charging extra fares are still going on. Public transports do not follow the law. Every road is a death trap now," he added.
Professor Shamsul Hoque said for a healthy transport system, "we need to develop the 3E system – engineering and planning, education and enforcement.
"At first, we need to focus on engineering and planning, then we should educate people and spread awareness, and at the third stage, there will be enforcement of the law. This system has been followed in the developed world and we should do it too," Professor Shamsul Hoque said.
The Secretary General of Jatri Kalyan Samity, Mozammel Hoque Chowdhury, told TBS that there has been no change on roads as anarchy continues even after the passage of the Road Transport Act 2018.
There has been no change on roads as anarchy continues even after the passage of the Road Transport Act 2018
"The causes of accidents have been identified. Now what is needed is to take initiatives to remove the faults on the roads," he said.
A total of 7,860 people were killed in 5,516 road accidents in 2019, 7,221 were killed in 5,514 road crashes in 2018, 7,397 were killed in 4,979 accidents in 2017, 6,055 were killed in 4,312 accidents in 2016 and 8,642 were killed in 6581 accidents in 2015.
Motorcycle accident declines
The Jatri Kalyan Samity said the country witnessed a 4.26% percent decline in accidents involving motorcycles, due to strict monitoring of their operations in 2019. The rate of accidents and fatalities has also been on a decline.
Dhaka Metropolitan Additional Commissioner (traffic) AbdurRazzak told TBS that motorcycle drivers are now more aware than before as they must compensate for recklessness by coughing up a huge amount of money for breaching the law. As a result, accidents and fatalities have declined.
111 recommendations yet to be implemented
On 22 August 2019, Road Transport and Bridges Minister Quader received 111 recommendations from a committee formed to restore discipline on roads and highways.
The 15-member committee, headed by former minister Shahjahan Khan, submitted a report containing the recommendations to the road transport and bridges minister.
Among the 111 recommendations, 50 were needed to be implemented urgently, while 32 were supposed to be implemented in the short-term and 29 in the long-term.
Later, the government formed four task forces to implement the recommendations.
"However, the activities of the task forces have been very slow," said Kazi Shifun Newaz, a member of one of the task forces and a teacher at ARI in Buet.
Kazi Shifun Newaz told TBS that 50 recommendations should have been implemented by December 2019, but the target has not been achieved.
About the source of accidents he said pedestrians die due to engineering faults and lack of awareness.
"Inadequate zebra crossings, no free space on footpaths, lack of an automatic signaling system, and lack of management regarding pedestrian road crossings are among the main reasons for accidents," he added.