When it comes to unnatural deaths of children, road accident is the second biggest killer, right after drowning, but there is no specific government policy or action for preventing this or educating children about traffic rules.
Road safety has caused quite a stir in the country recently but children dying on roads did not get specific attention. And the number of child casualties on roads has been increasing over the years, according to Bangladesh Shishu Adhikar Forum, a child rights group.
At least 549 children were killed and 79 injured in road crashes in the first 10 months of this year, a sharp rise from 357 of entire 2017, it added.
The Forum, a platform of 269 non-government organisations working for child rights, said according to the data it compiled based on media reports, death by drowning topped the list, 573 between January and October this year.
Abdus Shahid Mahmood, director of the Forum, said discussions on different child issues were common but children's death on roads never came to the fore.
“We all know that a large number of people are killed in road accidents but most of us are unaware that many of the victims are children,” he told The Daily Star.
“More worryingly the number of victims [children] is increasing day by day. It should have been a major issue, but sadly many people don't even know this,” he added.
The lack of education about traffic rules among the minors is the main reason behind such a huge number of deaths, he said, stressing the need for creating awareness among them about road signs and other traffic rules.
“It is quite natural that children would not know traffic laws. Many adults also don't know the rules because in our education system these issues are not taught at the elementary level,” he added.
Apart from death, many children become disable permanently, becoming a burden on their families. Many have to take up begging for a living, activists say.
Around half the road accident victims in the country are pedestrians, said Shahriar Parvez, a lecturer at the Accident Research Institute (ARI) at Buet.
Most of the accidents happen in rural areas where roads lack space for pedestrians, he added.
“Many children in rural areas go to school on foot and that's why they are more vulnerable to road accidents,” he told this newspaper.
Schoolchildren in city and town areas are vulnerable to accidents at intersections.
Most students are not aware of traffic laws, he said, citing a study done in 2016.
“In many countries, these issues are incorporated in textbooks at school level. But it is yet to be adopted in our country,” he said.
The ARI has developed a booklet on the dos and don'ts on streets for children which can be distributed in schools, Shahriar said, adding that a proposal has already been sent to the government.
Existing textbooks do contain some information but those are not enough, he said.
The Prime Minister's Office (PMO) has directed the National Curriculum and Textbook Board (NCTB) to incorporate the rules in textbooks, he added.
However, a top NCTB official said the PMO was yet to issue an official directive.
“Once we get the directive, we will start the groundwork to incorporate the matter in the curriculum from 2020,” said the official, wishing not to be named.