Whenever a major road accident occurs, people of the country see the same old tired response from the government.
Amid public outrage, probe committees are formed in no time at all, recommendations are made, and that is the job done. A majority of the recommendations of these investigation committees are left to gather dust in some bureaucratic labyrinth till the next major crash stirs public emotion.
A similar scenario is unfolding following two major accidents in Mymensingh and Chuadanga on Saturday, which claimed 13 lives and left many more wounded.
Much like in the aftermath of similar travesties in the past, the road transport and bridges ministry yesterday formed a committee to probe these accidents.
Interestingly, the ministry in August 2018 had formed a committee after four major road crashes occurred after Eid-ul-Azha that year.
The committee had found that small and slow-moving vehicles were responsible for three of the four accidents and the negligence of a bus driver in the other.
Apart from recommending legal action against the responsible persons, other suggestions from the committee included stopping operation of illegal battery or CNG-run auto-rickshaws and three-wheelers on highways.
But the authorities concerned seemed to have taken no measures in the light of the recommendations over the last two years as three-wheelers were involved in both accidents on Saturday.
Experts believe that noncompliance of their recommendations is the major setback in ensuring discipline and safety on the roads.
A passenger's welfare platform said on Sunday that the number of deaths in road crashes during this year's Eid holiday rush increased even with a reduction in public transport operation due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
At least 242 people died in 201 accidents across the country over the 13 days of the Eid rush to travel home and come back to Dhaka, said Bangladesh Jatri Kalyan Samity.
According to the corresponding report of the organisation after last year's Eid-ul-Azha, at least 224 people were killed in 203 road crashes in 12 days of holiday rush.
RECOMMENDATIONS NOT IMPLEMENTED
On August 25, 2018, the ministry had formed a probe committee to identify the reasons behind the accidents that took place in Narsingdi, Feni, Natore, and Kushtia during the Eid rush of that year.
Led by Safiqul Islam, the then additional secretary of the ministry, the committee submitted its probe report. As all four incidents were almost the same, they discussed the Natore accident in detail.
At least 15 people were killed and 20 others injured as a bus collided head-on with a human haulier on the Natore-Pabna highway in Natore on August 25, 2018.
The Daily Star obtained a copy of the probe report.
The committee had found the human haulier was modified, overloaded and its driver had no licence. It also blamed the operation of slow-moving and small vehicles on the highways for the fatal accident.
Accordingly, the committee recommended taking action against the human haulier owner as the driver died in the crash. It also called for taking action so that no slow-moving and small vehicles can run on highways.
The committee also said that while vehicles like auto-rickshaws and human hauliers are necessary for rural areas, ensuring road safety is not possible if those are allowed to ply the highways.
It also advised that the roads and highways department carry out a survey about whether "suitable service roads" can be made in several important areas.
The committee had also recommended making short video clips on driving basics and to circulate those on social media as it was not possible to train a huge number of drivers through traditional methods.
The government had banned three-wheelers, including those made locally, and other slow vehicles on 22 national highways in August 2015, and on several occasions issued directives to implement the ban.
But these vehicles keep operating -- causing frequent accidents -- allegedly with the blessings of local representatives. Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader on several occasions admitted as much.
Kazi Md Shifun Newaz, assistant professor of Accident Research Institute of BUET, was member of the committee.
Asked whether their recommendations were implemented, he said, "We had given several recommendations following investigation. I don't know whether those recommendations were implemented or not.
"But we see similar types of reasons for almost all accidents. Such accidents might not have happened had the recommendations been implemented. I don't see any effective measures to implement those," he told The Daily Star yesterday.
Another committee member, wishing not to be named, said, "Some recommendations may have been implemented. Other recommendations, like creating service roads, would take time to implement."
Mozammel Hoque Chowdhury, secretary general of Jatri Kalyan Samity, said the authorities concerned do not take the necessary steps to implement the recommendations of probe committees.
"Most problems [that cause accidents] have already been identified. Solutions are also known. What is needed is to take action," he said.
A committee led by former shipping minister Shahjahan Khan in April last year provided 111 recommendations to curb accidents. The government, in October of the same year, formed a task force led by the home minister to implement those.
Instead of forming another probe committee, the authority should implement those 111 recommendations, form a committee to curb road crashes and instil discipline in the road transport sector, he said.
This correspondent could not reach the Road Transport and Highway Division's Secretary Nazrul Islam for comments over phone, even after sending texts.
COMMITTEE FORMED AGAIN
The ministry yesterday formed a five-member committee to investigate the accidents in Mymensingh and Chuadanga.
The committee was formed a day after Obaidul Quader directed the authorities concerned to form a probe committee to investigate accidents that took place while people were returning to Dhaka after Eid.
The committee, led by the ministry's Joint Secretary Jesmin Naher, was asked to submit its report within a week, Additional Secretary Yousub Ali Mollah said.
The committee will have representatives from Bangladesh Road Transport Authority, Highway Police, and local administration and police in respective districts, he added.