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Spike in accidents on the highways

The wreckage of a bus after an accident at Shanuar under Ujirpur in Barishal. At least 10 people were killed and 18 others injured as the driver of the bus lost control over the steering on the Dhaka-Barishal highway recently — Focus Bangla file photo The wreckage of a bus after an accident at Shanuar under Ujirpur in Barishal. At least 10 people were killed and 18 others injured as the driver of the bus lost control over the steering on the Dhaka-Barishal highway recently — Focus Bangla file photo

The sudden spurt in terrible road accidents across the country carries elements of distress among the sensible segments in society. Not long ago, these road mishaps remained limited to Dhaka, Chattogram and the other regional mid-level cities. Of late, they have spread to the country's outlying areas having long-distance roads. These are national and regional highways. In the capital, there are nerve-racking gridlocks on busy roads. What galls the road users is the waste of valuable time on being stuck in tailbacks. As the vehicles cannot move, there are few scopes for going past one another, especially in rush hours. On the highways, even in normal times, there are few interventions by the patrolling traffic police. It results in a competition of sorts to race past one another.

If people from a disciplined country are willing to see the deadly extent to which highway vehicles can muster the courage to speed ahead of the others, they must visit Bangladesh. What they'll have to do is taking position at designated spots; and watch the wild competition to move ahead of others. On the national highways in the country, only the large passenger vehicles, trucks, covered vans, private cars etc are allowed to move abiding by the permissible speed limits. As days wear on, the real character of the highways comes to the fore. Almost all primary amenities are available on these so-called highways, except some basic prerequisites. Defying the restrictions placed on the small vehicles, motorised transports of every conceivable kind are found moving on the special roads in careless abandon. These law-flouting vehicles include auto-rickshaws, mini-passenger buses, motorbikes, crudely manufactured ramshackle carriers and what not. Few in the highway supervision and law enforcing authorities appear to be bothering about these nuisance-making and slow-speed vehicles.

These plying of misfit vehicles side by side with high-speed large passenger coaches and cargo carriers have been contributing to a literal non-functionality of the country's highways. This alarming aspect of these highways has eventually come to be known as a great bane for highway movements in the country. An anarchic situation leading to great public annoyance can be accepted, though grudgingly. But when it is accompanied by regular fatal accidents in broad daylight resulting in mindless deaths of passengers travelling by buses and other transports, highway mishaps deserve to be called a national scourge. In the recent years, these accidents are fast assuming alarming proportions.

Hardly a week does pass these days that doesn't see more than one terrible road accidents on the highways. Along with the changes in human nature caused by a sharp increase in the traits of desperation and vulgar exhibitionism, the Bangladesh people have developed a trend of remaining ahead of others. Its impact could be seen nakedly in the highway uses. Fontal collision of two vehicles or one fatally brushing past another prompting yet another to fall sideways has become a common spectacle. The terribly mutilated transports, badly injured passengers wriggling in pools of blood, groaning in pain, many from the nearby areas rushing to the spot complete the whole picture. A similar mishap involving three speeding vehicles crashing into one another simultaneously could be seen in another incident of the country a couple of days later. Its casualties may include both dead and badly injured. Thanks to their unabated increase in grisliness, many people view these terrible highway accidents as part of a new and emergent character of the highway users.

Highway experts have been suggesting from the beginning that law and order be the prime prerequisite for the proper functioning of these specialised roads. Instead, the state into which the highways have eventually declined to is depressing. In fact, many construction-related ills have been seen sapping the much expected enthusiasm out of the project. Many such deficiencies warranted prompt remedial measures. Those were associated with a lot of long-term infrastructural corrections. To the woes of general highway users, those urgent steps remained unattended.

In the area of disciplining the roads, the failure of the authorities concerned proved the most acute. As feared, this perennial deficiency found in the Bangladesh road communication sector emerged with all its negativities. Thus various types of pitfalls and inconveniences besetting the operators have kept haunting the country's major multi-lane highways. These new-age roads connect mainly Dhaka with the Chittagong port city. That trouble in driving smoothly, and unexpected accidents due to lack of supervision of the agencies concerned might one day frustrate the purpose of these grand projects have been duly identified. But those were given a short shrift.

The fast increase in the highway-related malfunctions, lack of discipline --- all resulting in periodically occurring fatal accidents had been veritably foretold in an unequivocal manner in the very beginning. To the ill luck of the quarters who had dreamt of the humble beginning to a grand countrywide highway network, the following mess-up and malfunction emerged as a series of shocks. In the interregnum, it is the nation and its socio-economic sectors which keep suffering. By all accounts, Bangladesh had pinned great hope in its newly built highways and those being built. But if their lackadaisical and below-par performance keeps going, it points to mere hollow rhetoric. In short, it's an unsavoury pathway to an opaque future. The highway projects' prerequisites should have been attended to at the very planning stage, the spadework to be exact.


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