Will Nadia’s tragic death change anything?

Road safety remains a neglected issue
Will Nadia’s tragic death change anything?

More than four years after the Road Safety Movement, where the death of two students in a road crash led to mass protests and pushed authorities to formulate the Road Transport Act (RTA) 2018, we are deeply saddened to witness the same kinds of unjust and tragic deaths continue to occur on our roads. The latest victim is Nadia Sultana, a 19-year-old student of Northern University, who was killed on January 23 when a bus of Victor Paribahan hit the motorbike she was on near Jamuna Future Park in the capital's Bhatara area.

After her death, hundreds of students blocked roads with their demands, which included arrests of the driver and helper, and compensation for the victim's family. The question is, how many more times will we have to see the same events be repeated? Why are people still needlessly dying in road crashes?

Despite government promises to seriously and urgently deal with the issue, the country continues to witness an alarming surge in road crashes and deaths, year after year. According to Jatri Kalyan Samity, 9,951 people were killed in 6,749 road crashes in 2022, while the number of deaths and crashes, reported by the Road Safety Foundation, were 7,713 and 6,829 respectively. Last year's numbers were much higher compared to 2021.

What have our transport authorities done to check the rising number of road crashes? Apparently, nothing noticeable. They have not only failed to check the number of unfit and unregistered vehicles on the roads, but have also been largely unable to take underage and unlicensed drivers off the roads. Although the driver and helper of the bus that killed Nadia have been apprehended, we are yet to know any details regarding the driver's license, his ability to operate the bus, and the fitness of the vehicle itself.

However, the issue here is not just the culpability of one driver or the fitness of one vehicle, but the fact that the entire transport industry is highly undisciplined and mostly unregulated. It is unacceptable that, this entire time, the RTA has been practically defunct in the absence of necessary rules, which were formulated only last month. How can there be change if the laws to bring about change are not enforced properly? The last four years of inaction have cost the country dearly, and have brought into serious question the government's ability and will to hold those responsible to account.

We urge the authorities to bring the alleged killers of Nadia to justice and to compensate her family according to the RTA 2018. We are also keenly aware that, to this day, the authorities have more or less failed in carrying out their responsibilities in upholding said law. Will the government finally take action, or will we only continue to witness history repeat itself?