People deserve safe roads

Bangladesh has seen an alarming rise in road accidents over the past few years. The roads in Dhaka city have become deadly. Everyday around four to six persons die in road accidents in Dhaka city. Such high rate of fatal accidents in the city is alarming and unacceptable.

The law that rendered mmaximum three years punishment for a driver in a road accident spurred huge public outcry. Drivers knew that the punishment and penalty in an accident is not too much. Bail will also be available if desired. In accordance with article 279 and 338, the accused could receive bail easily. In the wake of this, people demanded for implementing a new road and transport law. Although the law was enacted long ago, for invisible reasons it remained suspended for eight years.

New law was approved by the cabinet on August last year. The law was passed in Parliament on September 7 last year.

The new road transport law has increased the punishment for reckless driving following the directives of the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. There is a maximum penalty of five years for road accidents. Whatever is in section 304B of the Rule, the driver is punished with a maximum of five years imprisonment or a maximum fine of Tk 5 lakh or both fines if any person is seriously injured or killed in an accident caused by reckless driving. 

Road experts think this has been much better than the past. They also recommended for increasing the punishment. The new law is much stronger than the previous one. The new law will compel drivers to be more careful indeed.

However, experts recommended some changes to the new law.  The recommendations go like this: 

  • Initiatives to create skilled drivers need to be increased.
  • The driver's salary and working hours must be specified.
  • The capacity of the BRTA needs to be enhanced.
  • Ensure uninterrupted application of traffic laws to transport owners, workers, passengers and pedestrians.
  • Separate sidewalks need to be created for high-speed traffic on highways.
  • Road dividers should be constructed on all highways in phases. 
  • Extortion on public transport must stop. 
  • Reduce the pressure on roads by renovating and expanding railways and waterways.
  • Sustainable transportation strategies need to be formulated and implemented. 
  • To ensure proper implementation of "Road Transport Act-2018".

Accidents can happen at any time. Experts are of the opinion that unfit vehicles and unskilled drivers are considered key reasons behind road crashes. Therefore, in order to decrease the number of road mishaps, necessary steps should be taken to keep unfit vehicles off the roads. However, it is worth mentioning that thousands of unfit buses andtrucks are illegally plying the roads. According to law, it is mandatory for a vehicle to go through a rigorous annual fitness check-up every year and have its fitness certificate renewed to ply the roads legally whereas thousands of vehicles are running with expired certificates in Dhaka.

The conditions of the trucks are even worse. Half of the trucks plying the roads across the country are unfit. Reckless motorcyclists have also become an impediment to ensuring road safety in the capital. Since the launch of the app-based ride service the number of new motorcycles has increased remarkably. The total number of motorcycles in the country is 25 lakh 8 thousand 523. About seven lakh motorcycles are raging in Dhaka city. 

Unfit buses, trucks and illegal motorcycle have occupied the roads across the country. Women, children and the elderly facedifficulties when walking on the roads due to buses and motorcycles.

It is good to note that Bangladesh Road Transport Authority will take necessary measures to identify and dump the unfit vehicles. Also, they will not allow any biker to ply the road without license. 

Considering the situation, authorities concerned should take immediate measures to improve the current road safety issues, such as examining driver’s skill and fitness of vehicle and discouraging reckless driving. Also, motorcycle drivers who ply the roads without license should be held to account.

Md. Shaikhul Islam Raton works with Bangladesh Post