Monitoring lapses and indifference to blame
The number of road crashes and deaths rose alarmingly last year, according to road safety campaign Nirapad Sarak Chai.
The crashes and deaths increased last year by 51.53 percent and 17.75 percent over 2018, it said yesterday.
Achieving the sustainable development goal to halve traffic deaths by 2020 would be a “tough task” in the current situation, it said.
However, the number of people injured in crashes fell by 6.36 percent.
Nirapad Sarak Chai, which has been campaigning for over two and a half decades, came up with the data after analysing reports published in different national dailies, online news portals, TV channels, and information from its branches across the country.
Lack of proper monitoring and the authorities’ indifference within months after the widespread protests for safe roads are the main reasons behind the sharp rise in crashes, Ilias Kanchan, chairman of the organisation, told this newspaper after presenting the findings at a press conference at the Jatiya Press Club yesterday.
The data corroborates what two separate reports by police and Buet’s Accident Research Institute had said earlier.
Kanchan yesterday said at least 4,356 people were killed and 6,953 others injured in 4,702 crashes last year.
As per international standard, the organisation counted 20 percent of the injuries as deaths and put the total number at 5,227, he said.
The-actor-turned-road-safety-crusader added that the roads were less dangerous in 2018 when 3,103 crashes claimed 4,439 lives and left 7,425 others injured.
Illiterate and unskilled drivers, faulty vehicles and roads, poor traffic management, callousness of pedestrians, lack of political will, and poor enforcement of law lead to road crashes, he said.
On 2019, at least 198 people were killed and 347 others injured in 162 railway-related accidents.
In waterways, 64 people were killed, 157 others injured, and 110 went missing in 30 accidents, he added.
Over 50 percent of the people killed on roads were pedestrians. The highest, 2,013 accidents involved people being crushed under the wheels, he added.
People’s lack of awareness about traffic laws, use of mobile phones while going across roads, and a reluctance to use zebra crossings and foot bridges led to these crashes, he said.
A large number of drivers and their assistants were killed last year, Kanchan said, adding that 22 percent of the victims were either drivers or their helpers.
At least 648 of the victims were on motorcycles, he added.
With 396 crashes, June was the deadliest month followed by August with 379 crashes, he said.
The Eid holidays were in those months.
Nirapad Sarak Chai’s data contradicts with what Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader said recently. At a press conference on December 31, Quader claimed that the number of road accident has declined and they were working to reduce road crashes further.
BUS, TRUCK, MOTORCYCLE
Buses and trucks were involved in 2,025 crashes while all other vehicles were involved in 2,677, he said.
“So, they [drivers of buses and trucks] need to be trained institutionally to develop their driving skills,” Kanchan said.
Besides, he said there are 1.54 lakh licences for drivers of heavy vehicles. But the number of heavy vehicles is 2.61 lakh, meaning 1.07 lakh of the heavy vehicles are being driven by people without the proper licence, he pointed out.
However, the number of people with licence to drive light vehicles is far greater than the number of light vehicles, he said.
On the other hand, the BRTA issued 13.60 lakh licences for motorcyclists against 27.86 lakh registered motorcycles, meaning more than half the motorcyclists do not have licences.
Motorcyclists were involved in 19 percent of the accidents last year. It was 21 percent in 2018.
In metropolitan areas, more people now use helmets while riding, but the scenario in rural areas is not so good, he added.
WHY SUCH SHARP RISE?
Talking to The Daily Star after the programme, Kanchan said the absence of proper monitoring, especially due to the prolonged illness of road transport and bridges minister, was the main reason behind this.
Different government agencies, including police, took several steps like raising awareness after the student agitation following the deaths of two college students in July 2018.
But the situation went back to square one after a few months as the authorities apparently relaxed their effort, he said.
Moreover, successive protests of transport workers against Road Transport Act-2018 worsened the situation in terms of enforcement of traffic rules, he added.
If the law could be implemented properly, discipline on the roads would have been restored.
The government has to reduce 50 percent of the traffic deaths by 2020, Kanchan said, adding that the government should take coordinated steps to implement the act to achieve the target.
He recommended continued awareness campaign on media, implementation of a decision to incorporate the issue of road safety in text books, training drivers, building separate roads along highways for slow-moving vehicles, keeping the footpaths useable and correcting the faults in road designs.
The organisation’s Secretary General Syed Ehsanul Haque Kamal, Adviser Ayubur Rahman Khan, also former chairman of BRTA, and Joint Secretary Liton Arshad were present at the programme.