As we take stock of measures taken after a month since the school students came out on to the roads demanding safer roads, there is nothing to write home about. Indeed, there have been 300 road-related casualties over the past month. Things have not changed much; non-adults are still at the wheels of laguna-type transports plying the city and we still find buses stopping in the middle of the road, far from designated bus stops to pick up and drop passengers. The one thing that has changed is perhaps the record speed with which Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) is issuing fitness certificates to vehicles. According to a report published yesterday in a leading Bangla daily, BRTA is apparently issuing a fitness certificate every 42 seconds! Unless the BRTA has undergone a revolutionary change in the last one month in terms of productivity, we cannot comprehend how fitness certificates can be churned out at such record speed.
Bus owners at the time of the students' movement had promised that extra passengers would not be picked up unless at bus stops. That promise has not been kept. Roads are as unsafe as before because as per data published in this paper, there have been at least 10 accidents in the past nine days (August 20 to 28) on the country's roads during the Eid holidays involving slow vehicles alone, 46 people were killed and more than 40 injured.
Were we to compile data from all media outlets, the number would probably be higher. If we want to see a fall in these numbers, authorities will have to do much better than now. The first step would be to enforce the rules as laid out in the law. The government must rethink its decision to relax the experience requirement for getting licenses to drive medium and heavy vehicles. Any reform is always painful in the short term, but without these safeguards, there will be no let up to casualties and injuries on our country's roads.