We are appalled at yet another horrific road accident that left eight people killed and 17 injured. According to a report in this daily, a recklessly driven London Express bus collided with an Ena Paribahan bus head-on in Sylhet's Dakshin Surma upazila killing four people on the spot with the others succumbing to their injuries at the Sylhet MAG Osmani Medical College Hospital. We are surprised because there has been no let-up in fatalities and grievous injuries in road accidents, most of which are caused by reckless driving.
According to a passenger, the driver of the London Express bus was driving recklessly throughout the journey, overtaking other vehicles. This is something that we see on the roads all the time—buses or trucks overtaking each other or racing on busy streets and highways showing total disregard for traffic laws and for human lives. Sources at the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) have said that the fitness certificate of London Express bus had expired three months ago (November 24 of last year). When asked how a bus could run for that long without a fitness certificate, the assistant superintendent (Sylhet circle) of highway police commented that it was not possible for the police alone to ensure the fitness of vehicles, but that all government bodies concerned also needed to cooperate.
So, who is really responsible? The reckless drivers, the law enforcers who have not been able to keep unfit vehicles out of the streets through proper enforcement of traffic rules or the authorities in charge of ensuring that only fit vehicles and drivers with valid licences are on the roads? The answer is that all of them are responsible. A report by the Road Safety Foundation found that, in January 2021 alone, at least 484 were killed and 673 injured in 427 road accidents across the country. The highest proportion of these accidents (35.83 percent) occurred on highways, and the organisation cited unfit vehicles, reckless driving, unskilled drivers, and ignoring traffic rules as the major reasons behind such accidents.
Hopeless as it may sound, news of road accidents such as these no longer shock any of us. What is frustrating is that the passing of the Road Transport Act 2018, observance of Police Weeks to make the commuters and pedestrians aware of traffic rules, the PM's directives given in 2018, including limiting the drive-time of the drivers on long-routes, etc.—nothing seems to have had any effect in reducing road crashes. Transport experts and organisations researching road crashes have identified the main reasons behind road crashes. Thus, it is unfathomable why the Road Transport Act is not being enforced and initiatives not taken to make sure all drivers have valid licenses, fixed salaries and working hours and that all slow-moving vehicles are banned from highways. Most importantly, law enforcers must make all efforts to catch reckless drivers and hold their employers accountable as stipulated by the law of the land.