The Road Safety Authority has recently drafted a new National Road Safety Action Plan for the years 2021-2024, with the aim of bringing down the number of fatalities and injuries resulting from road accidents by 25 percent by the year 2024 and 50 percent by the year 2030. However, it must be noted that this authority has already failed to deliver on its previous promise, which was to curb the number of road casualties by 50 percent by the year 2020. A total of eight action plans have been drafted by the National Road Safety Council (NRSC) since 1997, but none of them have been able to reach their target. Although a new plan has been formulated, there has been no proper investigation over why the previous ones have been so unsuccessful in their implementation.
Around 56,000 people have died and 63,000 people have been injured by road crashes between 1997 and 2018. At least 4,284 people were killed and 9,112 others were injured in 2017, while the figures were 3,412 and 8,572 respectively in 2016. The amount of accidents had increased by 15.82 percent and the number of deaths had increased by 25.56 percent in 2017 compared to 2016. These facts indicate that the rate of casualties is on the rise, in spite of the various rules and regulations that exist on paper only. What is the point of forming committee after committee and drafting plans and regulations, if none of these efforts are put into action?
Some well-known reasons behind the continuous surge in road accidents are unfit vehicles, reckless driving, physical and mental incompetency of the drivers, poor traffic management, the lack of knowledge about traffic rules and the tendency to disregard them. The authorities cannot implement the new action plan without finding the remedies to these challenges. The inefficiencies are not limited to implementation only—there are also huge gaps in reporting and data collection, with the number of road casualties varying from organisation to organisation. For example, the police claim that around 3,918 people had died from road accidents in 2020, while according to the Bangladesh Jatri Kalyan Samity, the figure is 6,686. This is another peculiar situation that has to be addressed.
All the initiatives taken by our authorities to bring order to our roads have been futile so far. An attempt to curb the casualty rate without finding solutions to the underlying factors is not going to bring about any positive results.