Only a fully functional law can make our roads safe
It is extremely disappointing to note the ever-increasing chaos in our road transport sector. As the Road Transport Act-2018 remains mostly ineffective three years after its enactment, and the number and deaths have increased manifold across the country during this time. According to police data, there has been a 40 percent increase in road crashes and deaths in the country in the first seven months of this year, compared to the same period last year. Meanwhile, it has become quite difficult to bring those responsible for the accidents and casualties to justice and compensate the families of the road crash victims due to the nonchalant attitude of the road transport authority.
According to our report, the rules of the Act have not been formulated until now, without which the law cannot be implemented. Moreover, several key sections of the Road Transport Act-2018 still could not be implemented because of "negotiations" between transport associations and the government, according to road safety campaigners. Up until now, the government did not penalise those driving large vehicles with licences for light or medium sized vehicles and also did not impose any fine on any vehicles that were modified for carrying containers. Reportedly, the BRTA still issues fitness clearances to these modified vehicles.
Most importantly, under this new law, compensating the road traffic victims has not been possible as the Trustee Board which is supposed to deal with the issue still could not start its work and will not be able to deal with the compensation-related issues before the rules of the Act are formulated. As we know, the BRTA has finally formulated the draft rules and it is now awaiting the law ministry's vetting. We think the process should not take long at the law ministry—however, after the vetting, the draft rules will also have to go through several other procedures before they become fully functional. We are also concerned about the amendment of the Road Transport Act-2018. Apparently, the transport ministry has made a draft of the amended law in which at least 29 of the 126 sections have been amended and punishment or fine under at least 14 sections have been reduced. Before finalising the draft amendment, the government should consider the opinions of all the stakeholders concerned.