The theme of the day this year is: 'Livelihood is not before life, no more road accident'
'Shekhor Paribahan', a Jatrabari-Mirpur Section-12 bound passenger bus, started its trip from Jatrabari. Although the rundown vehicle was sardine-packed with passengers, it started racing with other buses several times.
Violating traffic rules, the vehicle picked and dropped passengers at least at 30 spots.
Reaching Mirpur, Younus Mia – an elderly passenger – breathed a sigh of relief. "The almighty has saved us," said Younus who was in fear of accident during the whole journey.
Joynal, the driver, sounded calm and relaxed, however. "Nothing bad will happen. We are very competent," he chuckled.
The trip to the 20-kilometre route reflects Dhaka's poor road safety.
Today, October 22, is the National Road Safety Day. The Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) is observing the day this year with the theme: 'Livelihood is not before life, no more road accident.'
Road safety came to the spotlight in July 2018 following the death of two high-school students in Dhaka. The killer bus was racing with another vehicle to get more passengers.
Tens of thousands of schoolchildren joined the protest, known as the safe road movement. They demonstrated in Dhaka and across the country, blocking roads and intersections.
Their main demand was to enact a law with the provision of the death penalty for killer drivers.
Hot on the heels of the movement, the House passed the Road Transport Act in September 2018 and the president also gave his consent.
A gazette notification was also published about the passage of the law, mentioning that the government would set the law in motion after fixing an implementation schedule with an official notification.
But the law is not in force as the notification has not been published yet, officials concerned at the Roads and Highways Division told The Business Standard.
Followed by the countrywide protests, the Governance Innovation Unit of the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) also issued 20 directives.
Later the National Road Safety Council led by former Shipping Minister Shajahan Khan also joined the PMO's move, tabling another 111-point recommendation.
The only output of the recommendations is that now motor bikers are wearing helmets, said road safety campaigners.
"The government must ensure road safety to attain the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)," the Nirapad Sarak Chai (We Demand Safe Roads) movement Founder Ilias Kanchan said while expressing disappointment that the Road Transport Act is not in force.
A training programme for 3 lakh drivers, Kanchan said, will begin in December next. The road safety activist, also a member of the training project, said they have already trained some 1,400 instructors who will train the drivers.
"I hope fatalities on roads will drop once trained drivers will sit behind the wheel," said Kanchan, while adding: "There is a serious lack of public awareness about road safety. The government should take initiative to make people more conscious."
Meanwhile, the government in the first week of September this year formed a task force to implement the 111-point-recommendation of the National Roads Safety Council to restore discipline on roads and highways.
Road, Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader told the media on the first week of September that Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal will lead the task force which will start its activities from next week.
"Taking initiatives are not enough. Initiatives should be implemented," Quader said.
"It's not right that we could not bring discipline on the roads. We have managed to bring discipline in several sectors, and hopefully we will be able to bring discipline to the transport sector too," he said.
However, Kanchan, a member of the home minister-led task force, told The Business Standard that no activity of the task force was held.
"And I don't know when the activities will begin," he said.