Whenever a fatal accident occurs, the road safety issue draws the attention of the people right away. They vent their anger on roads and social media, probe committees are formed, meetings held at different forums, recommendations made and directives given.
But the issue falls into oblivion within a few days. The number of casualties keeps on rising despite the fact that Bangladesh earlier had set a target to cut the number of deaths from road crashes by 50 percent by next year.
Amid such a situation, National Road Safety Day is being observed in the country today for the third year, with different government and non-government bodies drawing up elaborate programmes.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will attend a discussion at the capital’s Krishibid Institution Bangladesh, marking the occasion.
Road crashes have now become a matter of great concern in Bangladesh. The country saw two major student agitations for safe road since July last year following deaths of students in road crashes in the capital.
UNFIT VEHICLES RULE ROAD
According to transport experts and road safety campaigners, plying of unfit vehicles is a key reason for road accidents.
In a report submitted to the High Court in July, Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) said 4.79 lakh vehicles without valid fitness certificates were running on roads.
On July 23, the HC directed the owners of vehicles without valid fitness documents to collect fitness certificates in two months, starting from August 1.
BRTA statistics show that only 89,269 vehicles renewed their fitness certificates in August and September. However, the state-run organisation has no specific data about how many vehicles among the 4.79 lakh got their fitness certificated renewed in two months.
“We think a very few out of the 4.79 lakh unfit vehicles renewed their fitness certificates before the deadline. Among the 89,269 vehicles are those which might have renewed their certificates before their expiry,” a BRTA official said.
He said many among the 4.79 lakh vehicles might not be running now.
A total of 41.76 lakh vehicles, including 27.54 motorcycles, got registered with the BRTA till September this year since the country’s independence.
As per the law, all vehicles but motorcycles must have their fitness checked and certificates renewed by the BRTA every year. Therefore, 14.22 lakh vehicles are required to have their fitness certificates renewed annually.
But the BRTA data shows that only 5.75 lakh vehicles renewed their fitness certificates in the last fiscal year. A total of 1.40 lakh received fitness clearance in the first three months of the current fiscal year.
People involved in the transport sector said there are several lakh unregistered vehicles in the country.
Mahbub-E-Rabbani, director (road safety) of BRTA, said their mobile courts conduct drives regularly against unfit vehicles and police also work on the issue.
“Problems arose due to a huge number of unfit vehicles, but we are trying our best to check plying of such vehicles,” he told this correspondent yesterday.
NUMBER OF ROAD CRASHES RISING
Although some government officials claimed to have taken different steps to cut the number of road accidents, the numbers of road crashes and causalities are on the rise.
At least 3,488 people were killed and 5,863 others injured in 3,131 road crashes till October 18 this year, according to the Accident Research Institute (ARI) of Buet.
Some 4,076 people were killed in 3,513 road crashes last year, up from 3,672 deaths from 2,917 road accidents in the previous year, says an ARI report, prepared based on media reports.
Bangladesh Jatri Kalyan Samity, a passengers’ welfare organisation, put the figure much higher.
Although official figures are significantly lower than that of the two organisations, they also show that the number is on the rise.
According to police, 2,635 people were killed in 2,609 road crashes last year, up from 2,513 deaths in 2,562 accidents in the previous year.
Experts and road safety campaigners said it would be impossible to achieve the target of Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) to cut the number of deaths from road accidents by 50 percent by next year, given the present road network and safety measures.
Asked about the rise in the number of road accidents, Rabbani, also the BRTA spokesperson, said the number of road crashes has increased as the numbers of population and vehicles went up.
He, however, claimed that the rate of road crashes decreased compared to the previous years.
TASKFORCE NOT YET OPERATIONAL
Amid growing concern over road crashes, a committee was formed in February to make recommendations on cutting the number road crashes and bringing discipline in the road transport sector.
The committee, led by former shipping minister Shajahan Khan, on April 28 submitted its report with a 111-point recommendation. Subsequently, the government on September 5 formed a “high level” taskforce to implement the recommendations.
But the taskforce, led by Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan, is yet to start its work.
As per the proposal of the Shajahan Khan-led committee, 50 recommendations fall under category of “works to be done immediately”, which are supposed to be done by December this year.
Road Transport and Highway Division Secretary Nazrul Islam yesterday said the taskforce would start working “very soon” as it got approval from the Cabinet Division on October 15.
NEW LAW NOT IN FORCE
The country witnessed a massive student agitation for safe road after the death of two college students in the capital in July last year.
Following the protest, the parliament passed Road Transport Act-2018 in September last year, aiming to ensure road safety. But the government did not issue any gazette making the law operative, as stipulated by the law.
Meanwhile, different transport organisations have been demanding amendments to several sections of the law, including making all offences under the law “bailable”.
Several media reports said the government was going to amend the law giving into the pressure of transport leaders. However, the road transport minister said the information was not correct.
Asked about the delay in implementing the law, the road transport and highway division secretary said the prime minister would give directives in this regard.