Death toll from road accidents continues to occur almost every day. Different measures taken by the government and outcry from the public for safer roads are not having any effect on the trend.
According to non-governmental organisation (NGO)- National Committee to Protect Shipping, Roads and Railways (NCPSRR), in 2017, at least 4,284 people, including 516 women and 539 children, were killed and 9,112 more were injured because of 3,472 road accidents across the country.
While studying data on road accidents and deaths from it, during the last 10 years (2009 till 2016), it was found that the number of deaths were around 1,200 to 1,400 every year. During the same period, every year the number of injured people hovered between 2,600 and 2900. The numbers abruptly climbed to 4,284 and 9,112 since 2017.
The NCPSRR listed nine reasons behind the growing number of accidents. These include reckless driving, plying of three-wheeler-vehicles and motorbikes on highways, carrying passengers and goods in small locally-made mechanised vehicles and overloading and overtaking violating laws. The other reasons are: not following traffic rules and regulation properly on long routes, driving for a long time without breaks, risky turning points and dilapidated roads, non-enforcement of law to stop plying of unfit vehicles, and employing unskilled drivers.
Some experts claimed that impunity is also playing a part as most drivers involved in any road accident can get away by paying a small fine. Others who manage to flee hide for a week or two. When the memory of the accident fades away from public mind, they return.
The Motor Vehicles Ordinance of 1983 encompasses the rules and regulations from issuing a driving licence to the punishment of specific breach of certain rules. But all governments have failed to implement the rules.
The annual economic loss for Bangladesh due to road accidents is around Tk. 50 billion or US$ 850 million. Hence, it can be assumed that with such economic loss, it will be difficult for Bangladesh to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
In September 2015, world leaders at the UN Summit in New York adopted Agenda 2030 for sustainable development comprising the SDGs that should be achieved by 2030. The ground-breaking aspect of Agenda 2030 is that it explicitly links economic, social and environmental development goals for the first time and combines poverty alleviation and sustainability.
Bangladesh has already integrated Agenda 2030 in its 7th Five Year Plan [FYP] starting from 2016 to 2020. Besides, the government of Bangladesh has also formed SDGs Implementation and Monitoring Committee at the Prime Minister's Office to facilitate and ensure implementation of SDGs Action Plan. All these initiatives will be in vain if Bangladesh fails to achieve any of the 17 goals of the Agenda 2030.
SDGs have 17 goals with 169 targets. One of the key targets under SDG 3 is to halve the number of global deaths and injuries from road accidents by 2020. Given the rising number of accidents every month in the country, Bangladesh may not be able to achieve this goal.
To achieve the SDGs, the government should prioritise the issue of road accidents and take initiatives to ensure safer roads. Also, laws regarding roads, transports and punishments need to be implemented properly.
Rumi Akter is Research Assistant at Bangladesh Institute of Law and International Affairs [BILIA]. firstname.lastname@example.org
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