17 deaths a day on roads this year
12:00 AM, February 13, 2017 / LAST MODIFIED: 03:03 AM, February 13, 2017

17 deaths a day on roads this year

13 killed in latest highway accident in Narsingdi

On an average, 17 people lost their lives every day on the country's roads and highways this year, according to Bangladesh Passengers' Welfare Association.

Only yesterday, 22 people were killed in seven road crashes. Of them, 13 died in a single accident in Narsingdi.

At least 45 people have died in road crashes since Saturday night due mainly to reckless driving. And with steps to improve road safety going futile, experts fear more road fatalities in the coming days.

To stop the deaths on roads, they suggest taking run-down and unfit vehicles off, removing roadside bazaars and establishments, stopping the plying of unauthorised three-wheelers, enforcing speed limits and issuing driving licences and fitness certificates properly, among other things.

Even though hundreds of vehicles hit the roads every week, the vital road safety issue remains largely ignored, experts said, adding that the issue has been discussed for years on different government forums but the situation remained unchanged, as those discussions were confined to “what to do and what not to do”.

Around 8:00am yesterday, 13 people were killed and 30 others injured in a head-on collision between a bus and a microbus in Narsingdi's Darikhali on Dhaka-Sylhet highway.

The 12-seater microbus, which was going to Kishoreganj from Kamrangirchar with more than 15 passengers, was reduced to a mangled heap of metal. Eleven people died on the spot while two others died in hospitals.

On Saturday night, 13 people were killed in a head-on collision between a bus and a lorry carrying LP gas cylinders to Faridpur's Nagarkanda. Both the vehicles caught fire on impact, and almost all the dead were burned beyond recognition, said fire service officials who visited the spot.

Eight more people were killed on February 3 when a truck helper, filling in for the trucker, lost control over the wheel and ploughed through a crowd in Alutila of Khagrachhari. The accident occurred on Chittagong-Khagrachhari road where thousands gathered to attend a funeral of a monk.

Talking to The Daily Star yesterday, urban transport expert Prof Shamsul Huq said road fatalities occur as Bangladeshi roads have all the elements required for accidents to happen.

He said haphazard plying of motorised and non-motorised vehicles, speeding, the tendency to overtake and a lack of monitoring of the authorities concerned are the reasons for recurring road crashes.

“Strict monitoring while issuing driving licences and fitness certificates of vehicles, proper planning in road construction and increased police vigilance on the highways are a must to reduce road accidents,” said Shamsul, who teaches at Buet's civil engineering department.

Film star and Nirapad Sarak Chai Chairman Ilias Kanchan said a lack of monitoring was the main reason for road crashes in Bangladesh.

“Those who can drive fast and overtake other vehicles are considered to be quality drivers. There is no one to monitor this. The number of road crashes will not decrease until we change this attitude,” he observed.

Painting a grim picture of road safety, Mozammel Haque Chowdhury, secretary general of Bangladesh Passengers' Welfare Association, said the government should make the issue a priority.

In 2010, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution establishing the Decade of Action for Road Safety (2011-2020) with the goal to stabilise and reduce predicted levels of road traffic fatalities around the world. The issue has also been included in the adopted Sustainable Development Goals with a target to halve traffic deaths and injuries by 2020.

Being the signatory, Bangladesh is doing little to check road crashes and save lives.

According to the 2015 global report of the World Health Organisation, 90 percent of the road fatalities occur in the low and middle-income countries and road crashes, which are preventable, are the leading cause of death for people aged 15-29.

Deaths of so many economically active people place a huge burden on the victims' families and a country loses an estimated 1.6 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) due to road crashes that put a heavy burden on the national economies, said the report.

Identifying reckless driving and owners' greed for profit as major reasons for road crashes, Roads and Bridges Division Secretary MAN Siddique claimed that no steps would be enough unless the issues were addressed.

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