There are no words to express our sorrow and sympathies for the bereaved of the victims of the terrible road crash between a lorry and a private car at a roundabout on the Dhaka-Chattogram highway in Faujdarhat that has taken the lives of a father and two daughters, with the mother and a son barely alive. Reckless driving was possibly the reason behind this tragedy as the lorry had rammed into the private car at high speed. Over just the past week, there has been continuous news of such devastating road crashes. We ask in exasperation, why has the Road Transport Act 2018 not been enforced even after a year of its being passed? Why do reckless driving and other traffic violations continue to be tolerated despite the high number of casualties?
According to transport experts and road safety campaigners, plying of unfit vehicles is a key reason for road accidents. At least 3,488 people were killed and 5,863 others injured in 3,131 road crashes till October 18 this year, according to the Accident Research Institute (ARI) of Buet. ARI has found a steady rise in the number of deaths and road crashes over the years. This is despite the intense road safety campaigns by students, the vigorous traffic weeks, High Court directives to stop unfit vehicles from plying the streets, and innumerable meetings, probe committees and recommendations. We are mystified as to why the “high level” task force formed by the government still has not started its work to implement the recommendations of the committee aimed at reducing the number of road crashes.
According to experts and road safety campaigners, one of the biggest stumbling blocks was the lack of necessary infrastructure and manpower required to enforce the law. Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA), for instance, does not have sufficient manpower and infrastructure to check fitness of the huge number of vehicles plying on roads and provide licences to drivers.
The government must now make an accelerated effort to enforce the transport safety act; for starters, it must make sure that not a single unfit vehicle is allowed on the streets. Reckless driving must be dealt with a heavy hand despite the intense lobbying by the transport sector and its patrons to reduce the punishment meted out to drivers who end up killing people because of their carelessness, confidence that they will get away with it, substance abuse or sleep deprivation due to excessive number of back-to-back trips. More people have to be hired to check unfit vehicles and ensure that all drivers properly pass their driving tests. The practice of paying a “toll” to traffic police to get away with a traffic violation has to be completely stopped. We are tired of waiting for some change while this tragedy of families being destroyed by road crashes keeps playing out over and over again.