If road accidents are an endemic problem in this country, at times their surge and fatalities become nightmarish. Right now roads and highways all across the country are experiencing one such abnormal rise in road crashes and loss of lives. One Bangla contemporary has aptly put this phenomenon as an ever-expanding procession of death on roads and highways. What is exasperating is that the authorities concerned have no mechanism to arrest such deadly spells. In this particular spell spreading over the past 17 days up to Saturday last, statistics have brought to the fore an alarming trend in accidents. As high as 98 per cent of road crashes during this period involved head-on collision between two motorised vehicles. Does it raise an accusing finger at any particular issue? Surely it does. It is the drivers' reckless driving that is responsible for the head-on traffic collision.
However, it has a brief history. In the winter when dense fog drastically reduced visibility, a few such collisions occurred on several roads and highways and naturally fog was blamed for the accidents. Again, this is flawed argument in favour of drivers. When density of fog is responsible for extremely poor visibility, the best option is to stop plying vehicles until it clears off. But if the condition allows driving in fog, drivers ought to be extra cautious not to overtake and change lanes. Head-on collisions take place only when a vehicle trespasses on the lane reserved only for vehicles coming from the opposite side. Violation of rules and a particular crime committed at some point seem to influence others to follow suit. Or, else how can one explain the acid-throwing spree or digital exploitation of girls and women for sex? The head-on traffic collision seems to be no different.
Such road crashes make a mockery of the Road Transport Act-2018 providing for stricter penalties for fatalities caused by irresponsible driving. The prime minister has emphasised that drivers are made to go through extensive dope tests. Add to this the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority's (BRTA's) repeated claim that it is trying to ensure no unqualified person receives a driving licence. The ground realities, however, are contrary to such lofty claims. Hardly are the guidelines and mandatory tests followed before issuing licences. There is also no report that dope tests for drivers are regularly carried out before they are hauled behind the steering wheels. At times, tired drivers are forced to undertake return journeys on long routes without sufficient rest.
So blaming drivers only will not do. The systemic flaws are many and those have to be addressed. In the Sylhet road crash at Rashidpur involving two buses, investigators have a suspicion that one of the drivers was dozing at the time of the head-on collision. Reportedly, apart from Dhaka and Chittagong zones, there are no traffic magistrates and inspectors on duty to even check licences. This is pathetic. Adequate manpower for monitoring and supervision along with close-circuit cameras on highways can help curb incidence of traffic violation. An automatic monitoring and warning system as existent in developed countries should be introduced.