Road crashes getting worse every day
Four years ago, the young citizens of this country came together to make a simple demand: no more deaths on our roads. We witnessed students, most of them not even old enough to vote, exercise their fundamental right to protest to hold power to account and make Bangladesh safer for its people. At the time, it seemed like their passionate stand would lead to real political change: The Road Transport Act was passed in parliament, the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) issued 17 directives, and a high powered task force headed by the home minister was created the following year to curb road crashes and deaths.
How disappointing to now look back and find that not only have things not changed for the better, but they have actually gotten worse. According to police records, the number of deaths from road crashes in 2021 was nearly twice that of 2018. At least one road crash is reported in the media every single day. Yet, road safety organisations believe the actual number could be far higher than the reported ones. Earlier this month, a pregnant woman was knocked down by a speeding truck and died in hospital right after giving birth. The newborn's father and sister also died in the crash, leaving it up to the district administration to find her a new home in a state orphanage. How many more will lose their loved ones this way? How many more deaths, how much more disabilities and trauma will people have to suffer through before we prioritise road crashes as an issue of national import?
Experts have pointed out that the state's current priority is infrastructure development, which means increasing speed without eliminating the factors that make the roads risky. According to them, the government has given greater emphasis to the 111 recommendations made by a committee led by a former minister and transport leaders than on the proper implementation of the Road Transport Act. This is reflected in the fact that unfit and illegal vehicles, and unlicensed drivers, continue to ply our roads. Road safety advocates have accused transport associations and their leaders of continuing to exert pressure on the relevant authorities to reduce their culpability for creating conditions that lead to reckless driving. Would the government have us believe, then, that the demands of a better life from the younger generation carry less importance for them than the pressure from these vested quarters?
One government official told this daily that it was not just the law that was important – people's habits also have to change. While the public of course must follow the rules, it is no use to try and completely shift the responsibility of a better state of affairs onto them. Ultimately, it is up to the authorities to implement the rules, and to ensure that the families of road crash victims finally receive some long-awaited justice.