We cannot keep ourselves confined to the four walls of our house all the time. We are to go outside on the roads out of necessity and may have to ride transport vehicles to reach some desired destinations. These days we are to do this with sufficient risks which may even cause to lose our dear life even if we do not ride transport vehicles. Our experience is horrific as transports run amuck in the city roads. On July 29, 2018 two college students Abdul Karim Sajib and Dia Khanam Mim were murdered by a reckless driver on the footpath of Airport Road, Dhaka. This incident provoked uproar from the students countrywide in protest against such killing on roads.
The campaigners for safe roads and travels have revealed survey findings, according to which at least 87 per cent of public transports run amuck for rash driving. Bangladesh Jatri Kalyan Samity, a passenger-welfare platform, came up with a disclosure on April 21, 2018 that over 77 per cent drivers in the country do not have driving licence. Only 1.6 million drivers out of a total of 7.0 million across the country hold Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) licence.
On an average 10 to 15 people die every day in road accidents across the country. Available statistics show that in the last six months 1800 people perished throughout the country in road accidents.
According to a research finding, rash driving and break-neck dash of vehicles are responsible for 53 per cent of the accidents in Bangladesh. But the concerned authorities are yet to take the preventive measures to bring an end to this pestilence causing great mortality. Respect for law is hardly seen among the drivers.
In utter violation of traffic rules, the drivers vie with each other and drive vehicles with abnormal speed to collect passengers. Such greed results in recurring fatal accidents on roads. As they find no redress, reports of death in road mishaps no longer shock people.
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) comments: "In reality we don't have implementation of law in the country". It urged the government to take opinion of general people before publishing the bill of proposed Road Transport Law.
For resolving the ongoing anarchy in the transport sector, experts propose at least 10 recommendations to be followed. The recommendations include (i) single-colour bus service by separate companies to avoid sickening competition among drivers, (ii) forming a team with skilled persons named Public Transport Service Authority to look after safety of the commuters, (iii) bringing the activity of traffic department under accountability, (iv) steps against passenger harassment and fare disputes, (v) including professional and skilled persons in issuance of route permit, (vi) ensuring submission of the fines collected from traffic cases directly into banks, (vii) stopping extortion, (viii) making it mandatory for all high officials of both public and private offices to ride mass transports instead of private cars, (ix) making deterrent legal provisions for punishing offenders involved in accidents, and (x) freeing roads from hawkers.
The High Court issued a rule in March 2008 and directed that the installation of "speed governor seals" would be mandatory for all kinds of automobiles from March 2009. But no visible steps have yet been taken to control the speed of vehicles.
The punishment of drivers for rash driving is very soft and light under the existing law of the land. Drivers would have been more careful and road accidents would have reduced by now if exemplary punishment could be ensured for reckless driving that kill and injure people on roads.
Sarwar Md. Saifullah Khaled is a retired Professor of Economics, BCS General Education Cadre.
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