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Alarming surge in road crashes

Too many small vehicles to blame

Published : 23 Mar 2023 10:34 PM

The expansion of road transportation is contributing to dramatic increase in road accidents across the country.

The number of vehicles, especially small ones such as private car, three-wheeler and motorcycle, has increased substantially for far too less road, resulting in the increase in road accidents and casualties in Bangladesh.

Various vehicles, including bus, truck, private car, three-wheeler, rickshaw and bike, are running on the same road, which is one of the main reasons for the increase in road accidents.

However, two types of small vehicles-- bike and three-wheeler-- have become the most dangerous vehicles. At least 3,091 people were killed in 3,246 road accidents involving bikes in 2022, while 1,248 people were killed in 1889 accidents involving three-wheelers, according to the Road Safety Foundation.

According to the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA), now there are about 40,68,819 motorcycles and 32,9,813 three-wheelers are registered.

Motorcycles have increased nearly six times in the last 12 years as the number of registered motorcycles was 7,59,257 in 2010. The three-wheelers have also increased several times in the time. 

On the other hand, private cars have doubled as currently the number of registered private cars is 4,00,547, while the number was 2,19,830 in 2010. 

However, the number of buses and minibuses did not even come close to double as the buses and minibuses are currently 80,458, while the number was 53,422 in 2010. 

The overall transport has increased over four times in the last 12 years, while the number of road accidents and casualties has increased several times in the period.

At least 56,61,418 are now registered with the BRTA. Among the vehicles, nearly six lakh vehicles were registered with the regulatory body in the road transport sector of Bangladesh last year. It is the highest in a single year and 29.91% higher than that of 2021. Astonishingly, around 88% of the vehicles registered in 2022 are motorcycles.

According to the data of Road Safety Foundation from 1994 to 2022, the year 2022 saw the highest number of road accidents in the country. At least 7,713 people were killed in 6,829 road accidents in 2022, while the total casualties were 20,328. However, according to the Bangladesh Jatri Kalyan Samity, at least 9,951 people were killed in 2022.

On the other hand, a total of 1,803 people were killed in 2,827 road accidents, while the total casualties were 4,449 in 2010.  

The Road Safety Foundation data shows that motorcycles are more prone to accidents (26.5%) followed by all kinds of trucks (18.4%) and bus (12.3%).

More than half of the people killed in 2022 road accidents were riders of motorcycles (50.8%) followed by 20.5% passengers of three-wheelers. This indicates that more than 71% deaths are caused by two types of vehicles-- motorcycle and three-wheelers. Bus and truck of all types caused 7% deaths each as 427 people were killed in 1506 road accidents involving bus. 

The most frequent killer drivers are motorcycle drivers (38.3%) followed by truck drivers (29.2%) and bus drivers (12%). 

The highest number of road accidents took place in regional roads (41.1%), while 32% of the total road accidents in 2022 occurred on highways.

The break-failure is the main (42.3%) type of road accidents followed by crush (24.1%), head-on collisions (19.5%) and rear-end collisions (11.5%). 

Some experts on road safety said that brake failure is a common occurrence due to the movement of small vehicles on highways or major roads. Movement of small vehicles should be stopped on highways. 

Although the number of deaths and accidents involving private cars is relatively low, thus kind of vehicle can’t avert responsibility in rampant road accidents. However, the small vehicle also plays a vital role in creating heavy traffic in cities and towns across the country.

In the country, private car and other types of small vehicles are given more importance than public transport in road and infrastructure development. The construction of road and other infrastructures should be given importance to facilitate public transport. It will play a vital role in decreasing accidents and fatalities, said experts.

 Accident number is comparatively less in buses or public transport. So, public buses are relatively safer to transport passengers on the road. However, the number of public buses on road is decreasing at a proportional rate due to the rise of private cars and other small vehicles.

Talking to Bangladesh Post on Thursday (March 23), Advocate Syed Mahbubul Alam Tahin, secretary at Center for Law and Policy Affairs (CLPA); said that public transport should be preferred over private car, motorcycle, three-wheeler and other vehicles at policy level.

“While the number of buses on the road is decreasing compared to other modes of transport, the authorities concerned have little attention to regulate bus traffic and improve quality. Emphasis should be given on public transport movement and quality improvement on roads,” he said. 

Prof Mizanur Rahman, a transport expert; told media that unregulated increase of small vehicles, particularly motorcycles and three-wheelers, is responsible for the rise of road accidents. However, this is not only the reason behind the road accidents.

Alongside the increase of small vehicles, the poor condition of roads and highways also contributes to road accidents. 

Sk. Md. Mahbub-E-Rabbani, director (road safety) at BRTA; said that unauthorized overtaking, over speed, reckless driving, overloading, violation of traffic law, lack of knowledge about traffic rules, driving without taking necessary rest, and lack of education and professional knowledge are also responsible for road accidents across the country. 

Sk. Md. Mahbub-E-Rabbani mentioned the reasons during a presentation at a recent seminar on road safety reporting. He revealed the BRTA’s latest data at the workshop.  However, the data of 2010 and other years were collected from BRTA. 

Dr A.I. Mahbub Uddin Ahmed, a professor of Sociology at Dhaka University and chairman of Road Safety Foundation; placed the data of Road Safety Foundation during a presentation at the same seminar.

The National Institute of Mass Communication (NIMC) arranged the seminar in Dhaka   with the support of WHO and the Asia-Pacific Institute for Broadcasting Development (AIBD). 

Mohammed Abu Sadique, a deputy director at NIMC; coordinated the seminar. He told Bangladesh Post that the seminar will help journalists in their professional development while reporting on road safety. The cultural adaptation, social motivation, and a research-based master plan can ensure safe roads, he added.

He also said that the media industry in the Asia-Pacific region will achieve a new dimension through the leadership and cooperation between AIBD and NIMC, who are in 43 years of trusted partnership. 

Faizul Haque, director general of NIMC; said that an accident claims a life but the entire family becomes the loser. “Alongside with ensuring road related laws and safe vehicular movement, we must also be aware,” he said. 

Information and Broadcasting Minister Dr. Hasan Mahmud, MP, who attended the closing ceremony of the seminar as the chief guest; said that a road accident not only collapses a person, but also crashes the family. He suggested a comprehensive effort from all stakeholders to decrease the rate of road accidents. 

According to the presentations placed in the seminar, the most affected in road accidents are people aged 5-29 years old. Students are a large part of the victims, with 1,237 students killed in road accidents in 2022.

Experts made various suggestions in order to put a check on road accidents

Prof Dr A.I. Mahbub Uddin Ahmed said that the main reasons behind road accidents in Bangladesh are drivers, roads, vehicles, and management factors.

Road-related factors mainly involve a lack of maintenance of roadways. At least 60% of highways are in dilapidated condition with a lack of roadside safety devices and barriers, and some also include risky curves and turns. The lack of efficiency and capacity of BRTA and lack of technology to control vehicle speed are also factors behind the road accidents. These problems have been observed for years, but solutions are yet to be found. 

“To bring the road accidents under control, the government should take appropriate initiatives,” Prof Dr A.I. Mahbub Uddin Ahmed. 

He placed some recommendations including establishment of road traffic safety management system, creating skilled drivers, settlement of the wages and working hours of public transport workers, enhancement of the capacity of BRTA, upgradation of rail and waterways transportation, proper implementation of Road Transport Act, 2018 and media campaign on road safety. 

Sk. Md. Mahbub-E-Rabbani said that BRTA is working hard to avoid road accidents. The National Road Safety Strategic Action Plan (2021-2024) has been prepared to ensure road management, planning, driver training, testing and vehicle safety. 21 different organizations, including government, private and NGOs are involved in this plan.