Why is nothing being done about the endless road crashes?
Road traffic deaths and injuries in Bangladesh have turned into a silent epidemic over the last few years. According to the Bangladesh Road Safety Foundation (RSF), at least 6,284 people died and 7,468 others were injured in road crashes in 2021, compared to 5,431 dead and 7,379 injured in 2020. This year has been no different, with the RSF counting at least 554 deaths and 747 injuries in November 2022 alone. What's worse, 71 of the deceased were children.
One major contributor to the November death toll was motorbike accidents, in which 229 people lost their lives, accounting for 41.33 percent of the total deaths. This is particularly noteworthy because the rise in the number of motorbikes plying our roads has been linked to a rise in crashes in recent years. Because motorbikes are more susceptible to crashes, due to the lack of safety measures compared to bigger vehicles, it is terrifying to imagine how many more lives will be lost or scarred for life unless measures are taken to reverse the trend.
Some of the major reasons behind the increasing number of accidents include reckless driving, over-speeding, ignoring traffic laws, illegal and dangerous competition among bus companies, drivers being under the influence of drugs and alcohol, hazardous roads, and an ineffective traffic management system. The apathy of the authorities in addressing the scourge of road accidents is another major factor plaguing our road sector. Following the 2018 student movement for road safety, the authorities had made some promises to resolve these issues. However, as things panned out, those promises proved to be hollow. Even the much-hyped Road Transport Act 2018 – which has largely been neutered by the lobbying power of transport owners – continues to be stuck in limbo.
For comparison, we can look at the history of traffic accidents in China, another populous country. During the 1980s and 1990s, China invested significantly into researching the causes of its road accidents, which ultimately resulted in its first road traffic safety law in 2003. Over time, the number of serious traffic accidents (those resulting in death or disability) reduced from 49 per year on average before 2008 to just two in 2019.
The government of Bangladesh should invest in conducting similar research on the rising rate of traffic accidents, and strictly implement the road traffic act. The responsibility for the horrifying scenario that currently prevails on our roads falls squarely on the shoulders of the ministry of road transport and bridges, and the agencies that it commands, who must answer for their consistent failure. Without holding them responsible for the apathy they have shown to public safety over the years, it is extremely difficult to envision how some form of discipline can be installed on our roads and highways, and subsequently, how deaths and injuries from road accidents can be lowered.