An unrelenting procession of deaths from road accidents marks the first month and the two-thirds of the second month of the 2017. Various sources put the number of deaths at more than 700 and wounded at well above the 2,000 mark by this time. On an average about 14 lives perish under the wheels each day and more than 40 people are left injured -some of them severely.
Daily casualty figures of this order would have compelled the authorities concerned to literally move the earth for finding a way of arresting this dangerous trend if not bringing an end to it. Even public reaction is muted now. The impression is that both the common people and the authorities responsible for overseeing the affairs on roads have resigned to the negative eventuality. Both surely could have done better if only there was clarity of vision. A sense of resignation reigns when things are out of control.
This country has already earned enough infamy for road accidents, the incidence of which is one of the highest in the world. True, even the best of precaution is no guarantee for accident-free traffic because involved here is machines and mechanical manoeuvrability. But in case of Bangladesh, it would be unfair to blame various other aspects before human responsibility. Mostly behind the majority of road accidents, human actions are found to be directly responsible.
One notable feature of the unusually high incidence of accidents during the period under review is head-on collision between two vehicles. The next cause of accident is uncontrollably high speed of vehicles. As a result some of those turn turtle or ram into roadside trees, posts or any other thing. In case of no such obstruction, the vehicles either plunge in ditch or canal water or crash underneath.
This is a clear evidence of rash driving by people behind the steering wheel. So the quality of motorists and drivers of public buses should be placed under the scanner first. It is well known that irregularities in issuance of driving licences have allowed many to obtain the same. Unqualified drivers are not supposed to go by the traffic rules because they are hardly familiar with those. No sane person can lock in a competition of overtaking each other at a high speed. When their motive is governed by ego or insane adventurousness rather than rationality, drivers are likely to get involved in accidents.
So there is an overriding need for a deterrent to rash driving. First, the need is to detect the holders of illegal licences and remove them from duty. Considering the reality of the country, they may be given a second chance for obtaining licences on completion of all the required training and formalities. This done, the next step ought to be to strengthen the on-duty patrolling police who must have speed guns to warn a motorist or driver whenever s/he crosses the speed limit. If unheeded, they will take further action in the law book.
Since most roads and highways in the country are two-lane instead of four-lane, there is always an invitation for accidents because of the presence of slow and fast moving vehicles in the same space. Until the highways are turned into four lanes, it would be wiser to keep the speed limit at a reasonable level. Overtaking should be prohibited at high speed. Public buses carrying local passengers should have designated stops preferably on the left side with provision for space so that in no way they obstruct the main highways or roads. Even in Dhaka City, bus stops were on a separate curved lane on the left in the early 70's. If public transports are not allowed to pick up from and drop passengers at any spot and made to do so at bus stops only, traffic disciple will improve markedly. Chances of accidents will also decline. This will certainly call for addition of infrastructure like passenger sheds. In the absence of such lanes at bus stops, the sheds once built have been illegally occupied by various elements including small traders running tea stalls or photocopy business. Some of them have fallen to total disuse.
Roads elsewhere and highways should as well have such facilities in order to avoid chaos and accidents. Of course, there is need for better maintenance of roads and highways. Some accident-prone segments of roads with sharp turns and obstruction of views ahead should as well be taken care of. A package of actions and infrastructure complementing each other is expected to bring about a lot of improvement in traffic management on roads and highways.
Yet more are in order. People in charge of issuing driving licences and traffic will have to say no to corruption and irregular practices in order to bring discipline in the system. They must learn to appreciate the value of life and dignity of man. In a civilised society, human treatment has to be highly dignified. If people care for other human beings, it is impossible to be indifferent to the latter's sufferings, their loss and grief. There is need for sensitising people about the agony a family goes through and the irreparable loss it sustains when a member falls prey to road accidents.