The 'race' between two buses that killed one and injured ten passengers on Wednesday evening at Karwan Bazar put a spotlight on the issue of road accidents, the alarmingly high frequency of which makes Bangladesh one of the most accident prone countries in the world. According to some reliable sources, road accidents claim on average more than 10,000 lives annually and cause about three times more injuries, although the numbers released officially is much lower.
Even such a high number of casualties has not awakened us to such fatalities most of which are avoidable. The causes—mainly, old vehicles, bad driving, poor condition of roads, lack of enforcement of traffic laws and, sometimes, carelessness of pedestrians—remain largely unaddressed.
In the case of the Karwan Bazar 'race', the driver of the bus that tried to outrun the other did so despite repeated warnings from frightened passengers. Violation of traffic laws has reached a high level with traffic signals reportedly not working properly at several important intersections, motorcyclists frequently using pavements to the disadvantage of pedestrians and traffic police often turning a blind eye to buses stopping at undesignated places.
The traffic authorities must play a more active role in identifying and holding accountable reckless driving, speeding and unfit and overloaded vehicles. Dissemination of information on road safety to transport operators and users through media and exemplary punishment for violating traffic laws are some of the key areas that need to be worked on rigourously by the authorities.