Another road crash, another pointless tragedy
We're disturbed by the news of the deaths of 10 individuals, including a nine-year-old, in a road crash in Barishal's Ujirpur area early Sunday morning. Reportedly, the driver was dozing off and speeding before the bus crashed into a tree, almost splitting it into half. Despite requests from the passengers to drive slowly, the driver would not listen as he was allegedly an hour late as per his duty roster and tried to make up for lost time. There is no denying that the fault lies with his reckless driving, and he should be held accountable, but the driver was also a victim of the difficult circumstances that prevail in the transport sector. It is these systemic problems that are responsible for so many deaths on our roads.
It can be noted that those employed under the Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation (BRTC) usually receive formal contracts, but the majority of bus drivers outside this group have to operate under uncertain working conditions. Many work to tight deadlines for long hours, and are paid meagre wages. Often, bus owners rent out their buses to the drivers. So, the more trips a driver is able to make, the higher the amount of money he can take home. Realistically, with such pressure or expectations at play, it is no wonder that they would drive so recklessly sometimes.
Then, of course, there is the lack of accountability for transport owners and workers, coupled with the tendency to break the law at will or not enforce it as it should be, further endangering the passengers. The Road Transport Act-2018 is still a long way from being implemented or even finalised, as it went through frequent revisions to accommodate the demands of transport associations. Meanwhile, in April 2022 alone, around 543 people were killed and 612 others were injured in road crashes.
We're told that the families of those killed in the Ujirpur crash will receive a compensation of Tk 20,000 each, while a three-member investigation committee has been asked to hand in their report within seven working days. We hope all that is necessary will be done without any delay. We also hope the authorities will speed up the finalisation and implementation of the Road Transport Act-2018. Moreover, the importance of formalising employment of drivers with flexible work hours and decent wages in line with the labour law cannot be stressed enough. Doing this will help not only transport workers, but will improve the safety of ordinary passengers as well.