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Is road safety really illusive?

Published: October 24, 2019 21:31:46 | Updated: October 26, 2019 22:07:18


As the country observed October 22 as the Road Safety Day, lead newspapers including the FE took a moment on the grim recollection of thousands of lives lost every year in road accidents. The day meant to make people aware of and responsive to road safety is, in other words, a reminder of the consequences of the most undesirable happenings on roads and highways across the country. The Prime Minister who addressed the day's opening programme at the Krishibid Institution in the capital expressed her frustration at the unabated scale of fatalities and life-impeding injuries.

Data on road accidents reveal an upsetting picture of the rising numbers of accidents -- a trend conspicuous enough to tell that roads in the country are getting increasingly unsafe. According to statistics provided by the Accident Research Institute (ARI) of the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET), the number of road accidents since 2016 to 2018 has almost doubled, from 1,764 to 3,513. This year the number is 3,131 till September. Coming to fatalities and injuries, the picture is no doubt too scary. According to the Bangladesh Passengers' Welfare Association, 6,055 people were killed and 15,914 injured in 2016. In 2018, the number of deaths rose to 7,221 with 15,466 injuries. As per ARI statistics, accidents in most cases are caused by buses and trucks, though in recent times there has been a decline in bus crushes. There is a noticeably new dimension in the nature of the road accidents lately. Motorbikes have become a brutal intruder causing increasing number of accidents. Accidents involving motorbikes increased to 25 per cent in the first nine months of the current year from 19 per cent in 2018. The rate was only 8.0 per cent in 2016.

As mentioned, the Prime Minister herself expressed her disappointment at the state of road safety which reflects the failure not just to rein in reckless driving but also nonresponsive attitude of various quarters to a whole package called road safety. As the PM said, ensuring a safe road system is not only the responsibility of the government or the drivers, it is the responsibility of all-from pedestrians to all other citizens. All have to perform their own duties, she said. Among other things the PM was categorical in referring to various mismanagements that not only cause chaos on the roads but also road crushes leading to fatalities and serious injuries.

Road safety activists in the country have for long been emphasising the need for correcting some of the basic flaws in the country's road transport system. But these do not seem to have been heeded to at all. Ramshackle vehicles, visibly unfit for driving, still ply the roads, even the highways. Drivers, too, are sometimes found driving long distances without valid or proper licence. Over and above, the Road Transport Act passed in parliament more than a year ago following the countrywide safe road movement has not yet been implemented. Experts believe implementation of the law would go a long way in setting right a great deal of the indiscipline on the roads and help curb accidents.

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