Deaths on the roads are so much more than accidents
All deaths are tragic. But those that occur on our roads are mostly unnecessary and avoidable. With better planned roads, stricter compliance regarding fitness of the vehicles, better training for our bus drivers, and stronger awareness among our public, these deaths could be easily prevented. According to a police report, a total of 3,095 citizens of Bangladesh were killed in 3,259 road accidents in the first seven months of this year. Just to put these figures into perspective, it is more than the total number of people killed in the Twin Towers attack and far more than the total number of US soldiers killed in the 20-year war in Afghanistan.
The above figures for seven months make for the average monthly deaths of 442 and daily deaths of four. The question is—what, if anything, have the authorities done to prevent these tragedies on our roads from occurring? Most probably nothing. Inaction is perhaps a bigger tragedy than the deaths, as it indicates that such a huge loss of lives of our citizens does not lead to any official action.
One would have expected that lockdowns and closures of intercity bus services would have led to a big dip in road accidents. But the opposite happened as it led to a greater number of battery-run rickshaws, vans and other unlicensed and unroadworthy vehicles filling the void created by the ban on regular transportation.
Whatever the specific reasons may be for the high death figure this time around, the truth is that our roads are among the most unsafe in the world, and the number of road accidents recorded appears at the top of any global list.
Starting from the lack of careful planning—like scientifically calculated space and place in designing turns, curves and width—while constructing our roads, to monitoring the compliance of buses and trucks with road safety rules, to training of the drivers, etc, the whole chain of actors that cause the accidents must be seriously looked into and reformed as per the need of a modern road system. The fitness of vehicles that ply on our roads remains a serious but unaddressed issue. Corruption in the system allows the unfit vehicles to ply on the roads, causing serious accidents.
We urge the home minister-led special task force to take their own work seriously and implement the decisions that they make. While we agree with the BRTA chair that reckless driving by small vehicles is a big problem, it is, by no means, the only one. There are several other regulatory and monitoring problems that need to be addressed immediately. Our economic advancement must be accompanied by other features, indicating an all-round progress. Road safety must be one of them.