On an average, some 50 motorists are sued every hour in Dhaka for driving on the wrong side of the roads. Statistics available with the traffic department of Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) further showed that around one-fifth of total cases, lodged against motorists violating traffic rules, were due to wrong-side driving. Nevertheless, the number is very small compared to actual violations. The traffic police are able to trace and sue only a small segment of the violators.
In fact, driving on the wrong side of the roads is becoming a fast growing bad habit and motorcyclists are leading the pack. Except a few so-called Very Important Person (VIP) roads, wrong-side driving by motorcyclists are frequent everywhere. In most of the cases the traffic police, however, overlook the motorcyclists and target only private cars as it is easy to do.
Isolated measures have been taken to stop wrong-side driving. The outcome is disappointing. Wrong-side driving continues in broad day light putting at risk lives of pedestrians and adding further congestions on roads.
Flawed road infrastructure is a major factor to encourage drivers to take wrong side of the roads. In many parts of the city, road dividers have been constructed without providing adequate U-turns. Again, in some parts, dividers on roads blocked the intersections of side roads connecting the main roads. As a result, motorcyclists drive on the wrong side making it shortcut. In many places, rickshaws also take the wrong sides.
But the main reason is lack of non-discriminatory enforcement of traffic laws. Though law should be enforced without any discrimination, it is a rare thing in Bangladesh. In some part of the city, the traffic police regularly stop rickshaws driving on the wrong side of the roads and compel them to go back. At the same time, they are overlooking the motorcycles driving on the wrong side. Again, in some cases the police escort VIP cars on the wrong side of the roads to avoid congestions.
All these are an ominous trend and this kind of discrimination is not only unethical, but also illegal. When law enforcers disregard the law, they lost their moral authority to compel ordinary people abide by the law. But the traffic police in Dhaka are doing the thing and giving a wrong message that all violators of traffic rules are not offender. By giving the wrong message, the authorities are virtually encouraging many others to take the wrong side of the roads.
Following the traffic rules is an essential part of any civilised society. Enforcing the law without discrimination is interlinked with this. It appears that space for these fundamental propositions in this country is gradually shrinking. Absence of law enforcing agencies' support turns common people shaky to protest the bad practice. So, society is unwillingly but under compulsion accepting the driving on the wrong side of the roads as a normal phenomenon.
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