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Rapid surge in road crash in Dhaka city

Published : 28 Nov 2023 10:55 PM | Updated : 02 Dec 2023 09:32 PM

With the number of vehicles rapidly increasing in low and middle income countries, the death in road crashes is also rapidly worsening in the countries. WHO estimates that 1.3 million people die in road crashes worldwide every year, with about 25,000 fatalities reported in Bangladesh.

The road crash not only claims thousands of lives but also leaves thousands of people injured and disabled. As many families suffer for years after losing their loved ones, so many people have to suffer indescribably with road crash injuries and disabled persons. The persons with disability, however, become a burden to the family and face adverse situations in the family and society.

“The family that has lost a dear and near one in a road crash suffers the untold pain and agony of losing a loved one. My husband died prematurely in a road crash, leaving our five-year old child behind. My baby looks for his father every day. I have lost my husband, while the child has lost his father forever which cannot be compensated,” said Rebecca Sultana Neela, a widow of a recent road crash victim. 

Her 39-year old husband Ariful Islam, a former president of Bangladesh Chhatra Federation, and Ariful’s friend Sauvik Karim were killed when a speeding truck hit their motorcycle and ran them over when they fell on the road in New Eskaton area in Dhaka city on November 7 night.

Ariful Islam and Sauvik Karim were returning home and surely their family members were waiting for them at home like any other day.

“The road crash took place around 11:45pm and I received the tragic news at twelve o’clock. My husband and his friend fell on the road after the speeding truck hit their motorcycle. They were lying on the road for about 40 minutes. I went there and found the bodies in a van. Such a tragic end should not happen to any other family,” Rebecca Sultana Neela told daily Bangladesh Post in tears. 

Although Neela does not want to see repeat of such a tragic incident, road crash is claiming lives in Dhaka every day and many families are falling into danger. 

After the road crash in the New Eskaton area, many more road crashes have already occurred in Dhaka city in the last few days and many were killed. Four people died prematurely on the road in a road crash at Demra in the city on November 23. On that day, a 22-year old female police constable was also killed in a separate road crash in Savar, on the outskirts of the city. 

The female cop was killed and her husband injured after a speeding bus hit their motorcycle on the Dhaka-Aricha highway at Hemayetpur bus stand. After completing her duty at Uttara in the city, Afsana Akhter, who was a constable of the Armed Police Battalion (APBn-11), along with her husband was going towards her sister’s house and faced the tragic incident. As both of them fell on the road, Afsana was run over by the bus and died on the spot. 

These incidents prove that road crashes are constantly increasing in Dhaka city. However, reports of different organisations also show that the number of road crashes in Dhaka city is increasing day by day. 

The reasons behind the increase in the number of road crashes include faulty road design, lack of zebra crossing and footpath, tendency to cross the roads anywhere at whim, lack of law enforcement and rise in the number of vehicles, particularly motorcycles. 

As the road crash is one of the leading causes of death and the fatalities following the road crashes are increasing day by day in Dhaka city, many experts on road safety called traffic deaths and injuries a ‘silent epidemic on wheels’ in the city. 

“Road traffic deaths and injuries in Dhaka city as well as Bangladesh have turned into a silent epidemic,” said Aminul Islam Sujon, technical adviser (road safety, Bangladesh) of global organisation Vital Strategies. 

Talking to Daily Bangladesh Post on Tuesday (November 28, 2023), the expert of road safety said that the pedestrian casualties in Dhaka city have become an epidemic as the pedestrians die at a relatively high rate in road crash.

Echoing the almost same, Md. Abdul Wadud, coordinator of Bloomberg Philanthropies Initiative for Global Road Safety (BIGRS); said that road crash in Dhaka city is now at epidemic situation. 

The severity of road crashes and casualties in Dhaka city is evident in the comments of the two experts. 

On the other hand, the above-mentioned road crash in the city’s New Eskaton area and various other incidents of road crash prove that the lack of law enforcement, reckless driving and lack of access to emergency medical facilities often lead to deaths on the roads and streets. 

According to Neela, Ariful Islam and his friends were lying on the road in the heart of Dhaka city for about 40 minutes before she reached the spot.

It could be that the duo died on the city road due to excessive loss of blood as well as they bleed to death on the road. Many road traffic victims in the city and other parts of the country die following severe bleeding. Maybe Ariful Islam and his friend could have been saved if they had rushed to any hospital.

A resident of the New Eskaton area said that the duo could have been saved if they were immediately taken to the hospital. However, there were many hospitals nearby. The on duty doctors of any hospital would declare them dead. Why did they lie on the street for 40 minutes until one of the victims’ wife arrived?

The Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU) is located just one to one and a half kilometers from where the two meritorious youths met with a road crash. On the other hand, there is a hospital just 100 meters away. However, some of the country’s leading private medical colleges and hospitals are within about a kilometer distance from the road crash spot. Such as Ad-Din Medical College Hospital, Holy Family Red Crescent Medical College Hospital, SPRC & Neurology Hospital, Taqwa Specialized Hospital, Insaf Barakah Kidney & General Hospital, and Institute of Laser Surgery & Hospital, 

“Many traffic victims die due to lack of access to emergency medical facilities. Emergency response as well as quick response can prevent their death,” said Dr. Armana Sabiha Huq, an assistant professor at Accident Research Institute (ARI) of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET). 

Professor Dr Monaim Hossen, an orthopedic surgeon in Dhaka and president of Bangladesh Orthopaedic Society; said that lack of emergency response contributes to a number of fatalities and injuries on the roads. Many road crash victims die due to severe bleeding and lack of quick response. Many lives of road crash victims can be saved and many people can be protected from disabilities if quick response is ensured, he added.  

He opined that initiative should be taken to ensure quick response by emergency medical service for road crash victims just after the incident.

Although the average traffic speed in Dhaka city is about five to six kilometers per hour, the high speeding of vehicles and violation of traffic rules cause the above-mentioned road crashes in New Eskaton, Demra and Savar. 

Taslima Akhter, a friend of Ariful Islam and a Bangladeshi photographer, said that the two youths fell on the road after the speeding truck hit their motorcycle. The driver sped up to flee and both were crushed under the wheels of the truck, leaving them dead on the spot.

Md. Abdul Wadud of BIGRS said, “Most of road crashes in Dhaka city usually occur at night and early morning. Although the traffic speed in the city is low, it is reported in many incidents that drivers speed up quite a bit leaving the road empty, resulting in road crashes. Traffic police are usually not on the road or less at that time.”

He, however, said that there is no separate data about the traffic deaths due to high speeding. Data is needed. Then proper steps can be taken which ultimately will reduce the traffic congestion and also the road crash in the city. 

Aminul Islam Sujon of the Vital Strategies said that pedestrians and motorcyclists are usually victims of high speeding of vehicles at high rate in Dhaka. The motorcycle crashes are increasing day by day alarmingly and it has reached a pre-epidemic situation, he added. 

Although most of the road traffic victims die or receive severe injuries in road crashes which happen due to faulty road design, or lack of enforcement, or violation of traffic rules, or lack emergency treatment, the victims of their family in large scale usually are deprived of justice, while responsible people for road crashes usually don’t come under legal action. 

Following the death of female cop in Savar, Sheikh Abul Hasan, officer-in-charge (OC) of Savar Highway Police Station; said that a speeding bus hit their motorcycle on the highway. Although police seized the killer bus, the driver fled the scene following the road crash.  The OC, however, said that legal procedures to pursue appropriate actions regarding the road crash are currently in progress.

The OC’s comment indicates that the road crasht took place due to violation of the traffic rules. However, the question remains whether the family of the killed female cop or her surviving injured husband will get justice or compensation. 

On the other hand, after the road crash in the New Eskaton area, Shah Mohammad Awlad, OC of Hatirjheel Police Station; said that police were trying to identify the truck and detain its driver through CCTV footage. 

Almost three weeks have passed since this incident, but there is no progress. The authorities concerned are yet to identify the killer truck or its driver. 

Although usually there is huge outcry after some road crashes, later the families of victims or survivors don’t get justice or compensation at large scale.  

Rebecca Sultana Neela, the widow of road crash victim Ariful Islam, told this correspondent that she doesn’t have hope about getting justice or getting compensation although a compensation scheme for road victims has been introduced recently. 

Families, children and relatives as well as loved ones of the road traffic victims and survivors suffer a lot throughout their lives. 

“I know from our family’s experience how painful it is to lose a loved one in a traffic crash. I lost my father in a road crash when I was only six months old. Even after 29 years, the loss of my father pains me, our family and relatives every day,” said Sultan Ahmed whose father was killed in a road crash in 1994 at Banani in Dhaka city. 

His father Amin Uddin of Brahmmangram village under Kanaighat upazia in Sylhet was an expatriate. During his stay in Bangladesh on leave for two months, Amin Uddin came to Dhaka city for visa purposes and died on the spot in the road crash.

At that time, Foysal had an elder sister and another elder brother who was 4-year old. “I heard from my mother that my father took me in his lap before leaving home for Dhaka. No one else should lose their father in a road crash like this,” said Sultan, who is now about 30 years old.

    Like him, thousands of people as well as families miss their loved ones every day. 

Advocate Iti Rani Saha, a lawyer in Manikganj who is a widow of a road crash victim; said that her husband, who was involved in the environmental movement in Bangladesh, was crushed to death in Savar on May 21 in 2018 when two buses were in race to go first. And one of the speedy buses ran over him, leaving him bleeding to death on the road.

“In the morning on that day, my husband was on the roadside at Hemayetpur of Savar to go to workplace in the capital city. I talked to him about ten minutes before he died on the spot. At that time, we had been married for ten years and one month. Our son was 8 years old and daughter was 3 years old. Many people visited our house following my husband’s tragic death and they still maintain contact with us. However, no one can compensate for the irreparable loss of my family. My son and daughter lost their father forever which cannot be compensated,” said Advocate Iti Rani Saha

Calling everyone to be responsible, she said. “We all have to act responsibly. From driver to police, everyone has to know their duties and follow that. We should voice our concern to enforce existing laws and regulations strictly to reduce tragic crashes on the road.”

Talking to Daily Bangladesh Post, Ilias Kanchan, founder and chairman of Nirapad Sarak Chai; said that the death of a person in a road crash destroys a family. The road crash victims should be commemorated with proper support.  Those who don’t have a road crash victim in their family should never become a victim and wish that no one else becomes a victim.