The government is mulling formation of a taskforce to implement 111 recommendations submitted by a committee for bringing discipline in the streets and curbing road accidents, according to a recent report.
The committee, headed by Mr Shahjahan Khan, prepared the report in the backdrop of little progress in the execution of a related law -- Road Transport Act (RTA). The road transport and bridges minister said the issue of forming the task force as per the recommendation of the committee will be discussed in next meeting of National Road Safety Council (NRSC).
The proposed task force is expected to work for implementing the recommendations strictly through an action plan, the minister said. The NRSC will approve the recommendations after addition, deletion, even reconstructions of any proposal, if necessary, during its 26th meeting of the council to be held early next month.
The committee finalised the report with 111 recommendations after holding at least seven meetings. Fifty of the recommendations were suggested for immediate implementation, 32 for short term and 29 long term. The leader of the committee handed over the report to the Prime Minister very recently.
However, it has been seen that many of the recommendations were found in the existing laws, guidelines and reports of many other committees which were not implemented. The road transport minister admitted that many reports submitted earlier were not implemented but said that taking a long time in preparation and not having right proposal for execution are the reasons behind non-implementation of those reports.
He, however, admitting the fact that the execution of RTA is rather challenging. There is no conflict with any quarter, he said, and added that he wanted to go professionally and try to adjust the law as there is no enmity with any quarter.
There is no denying that the number of fatalities in road accidents increased in the country in recent years. According to Bangladesh Police statistics based on first information reports, the numbers of both accidents and causalities are higher than the reported incidents as many such incidents remain under-reported including injured victim's death in hospitals or afterwards.
Besides, fatal traffic accidents are decreasing on national highways, while accidents saw an increase on regional highways, district roads and roads under Local Government Engineering Department (LGED). The gradual increase in number of accidents is linked with failure in checking unregistered and unsafe vehicles on roads, lack of training facilities for drivers, dilapidated road network and political pressure.
According to police first information reports, in 2018, there were 2,609 traffic accidents, in which there were 2,635 deaths and 1,920 injured. In 2017, 2,513 people were killed and 1,898 were injured in 2,562 accidents; whereas in 2016, 2,463 people were killed and 2,134 injured.
While the government is desperate to meet one of the targets of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to halve the number of deaths and injuries in road traffic accidents by 2020, the current statistics of increasing number of accidents and fatalities on roads are sending out bad signals.
The Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA), however, claimed that the number of fatalities in road accidents did not increase. It said the accidents should be measured after taking into consideration the ratio between the number of accidents and the increase in population, vehicles and traffic congestion. The authority claimed that the improved physical condition and enforcement of the laws and regulations left a positive impact on traffic on the national highways, where number of accidents has decreased.
The rate in terms of the number of fatalities per 10,000 on-road motor vehicles, excluding motorbikes, is very high in Bangladesh (over 50) compared with those in the developed countries. The corresponding fatality rates in developed countries are only about 2.0 per 10,000 on-road motor vehicles.
Any sort of incident, risky attitude like over speeding, dangerous overtaking, violation of traffic rules sign-signal disobedience, information related to accidents and so on should be monitored digitally.
A study says over-speeding is responsible for 37 per cent of deaths in road accidents, careless driving for 47 per cent deaths and the remaining fatalities for other reasons. Of the accidents, 20 per cent are head-on collisions, 13 per cent involve the rear end of vehicles, overturn 9.0 per cent, sideswipe 6.0 per cent, hitting parked vehicles 3.0 per cent.
Yet such accidents, numerically shocking as they may be, fail to truly reflect the social tragedy. Media apart, transport analysts have time and again called for stringent enforcement of traffic rules and regulations. Traffic police seldom carry out routine examination of fitness certificates and other relevant documents of motorised vehicles and driving licences of the drivers.
As a consequence, there are random violation of traffic rules and regulations. Unskilled drivers and flawed vehicles rule the main thoroughfares. Reckless driving, especially by bus and truck drivers, continues unabated because there is hardly any decisive action against them.
The country's transport planners should examine the concept of dedicated roads in line with the standard followed by the western countries. In the system, some specific kinds of vehicles are allowed to use such roads for long journeys. On both sides of the dedicated road, there are side roads for the shops and villages around to use.
The most worrisome aspect is that there is a lack of accountability everywhere. The drivers used to believe they can get away with road traffic fatalities. On the other hand, the law enforcers seldom show the desired urgency to enforce the rules and regulations, and penalise the violators.
Analysts have found that by ensuring road safety, the government could save around Tk 400 billion annually or around 2.0 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
All said and done, what is needed is that a comprehensive system of accountability should be put in place in order to ensure discipline on the roads and reduce the number of fatal accidents.