7 years ago

Stopping deaths in road accidents

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The front-page photograph of two rundown buses in this newspaper on January 20 is yet another reminder of the wholesale anarchy gripping Dhaka's busy roads. Apart from the revolting looks of the buses, the photo carries another element of news. The two public transports are apparently engaged in a deadly race. We can still feel the smell of the blood and mangled flesh of two ill-fated school-going girls. They met their tragic deaths in separate accidents involving two rashly driven minibuses in the city recently. The accidents occurred on a single day, January 16, within the span of just eight hours.
The deaths of the two teenage girls under the wheels of speeding buses poignantly speak of the extent of deterioration in the compliance of traffic rules. The real picture is grim. And to term it appalling is an understatement. Given the increasing frequency of road accident deaths involving minibuses, the scenario, in fact, calls for unsparingly stringent measures. If required, the relevant traffic rules should be discussed in parliament and harsher preventive laws enacted. The alarming rate at which fatal road accidents are occurring in Dhaka, the city might be headed for a top place in a global list of the cities with the highest vehicle fatality rates.
A great percentage of road mishaps in the capital occur due to reckless driving which results in pedestrians being killed under the wheels. These deaths have always outnumbered those caused by collisions between vehicles a year. In the developed countries deaths due to being hit by a running car or bus are rare.
In the case of Dhaka metropolis, bus drivers have repeatedly been singled out as the main culprits behind road accidents. Uproars have kept raging on the skill and education level required for them to sit behind the steering wheels. Rights groups have also pointed their finger at underage drivers. In general, poorly trained and illiterate bus drivers are found responsible for the deaths in road accidents. Fake driving licences also add to the anarchy in the public transport movement in the capital.
In fact, legal loopholes combined with the laidback attitude of the authorities concerned aggravate the whole scenario. But there is another side of the coin: awareness of the pedestrians. Despite continuous campaigns, advocacies and exhortations, they could not be taught the minimum norms required while crossing a road or walking by. Most of the people avoid foot overbridges and scale mid-street barriers hazardously to cross roads. Darting through a road nonchalantly with speeding vehicles around is a common sight. A seemingly entrenched arrogance and the tendency to throw oneself into danger aptly define our pedestrians' behaviour. On the other hand, improper planning of roads & dividers and setting up turns at wrong points also lead to accidents.
Given a strong commitment to ensure hazard-free roads for the people, and making them play their proper role can bring about a radical change in this fraught segment of life in Dhaka. Though it sounds ambitious, we cannot but strive for a complete overhaul of the traffic situation, and also of the mental set of our road users.
Upon being dragged along the monster of road chaos this long, we have veritably reached the end of our tether. This is an ordeal of gargantuan proportions.

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