Vehicular speed control a must to save lives on roads

Published : 01 Dec 2023 08:02 PM | Updated : 02 Dec 2023 09:30 PM

“Losing the only breadwinner of a family is like coming under the direct heat of a scorching sun,” Zaheda Begum uttered the words with a deep sigh as she lost her brother in a road crash.

She along with her family members is still carrying the pain and grief of losing the brother who died on road in Badda area in Dhaka city 22 years ago.

In this way, thousands of lives are lost on roads every year and many families lose everything. In most cases, road crash victims are the main or lone-earner of the family. As a result, victim families face financial hardship.

“The victims of road crashes are mostly active people. When an earning person dies or becomes disabled suddenly, the entire family’s income is cut off. It has an impact on the country’ economy too,” said Dr. Md. Ashraful Alam, an associate professor at the Institute of Social Welfare and Research of Dhaka University.  

WHO estimates that road crashes account for a significant 5.3 per cent loss of Bangladesh’s GDP. A five per cent cut in average vehicular speed can reduce fatal road crashes by up to 30 per cent.

Zaheda’s brother Abdul Quddus, who was 30-year-old, was only breadwinner of his family. He was serving in a private bank. In an evening in 2001, a speeding bus hit him on the road on his way back from office and he bled to death.

His sudden death scarred the family forever “My brother brought me to Dhaka. Alongside my family, I also had to struggle a lot in Dhaka city following his death on road,” Zaheda Begum, now a resident of in city’s Mirpur area, told Daily Bangladesh Post.

Lives are still lost on the roads due to high vehicular speed and some other reasons. “However, most road crashes occur due to excessive vehicular speed,” said Taifur Rahman, programme manager of Geneva-based Global Road Safety Partnership (GRSP).

It seems from some recent road deaths that road crashes due to high speeding are probably more common now than in the past.

Five people, including four of a family, were killed after a speeding truck hit a CNG-run auto-rickshaw on Rajshahi-Dhaka highway on November 25. Following the incident, Md Jamirul Islam, additional deputy police commissioner (media) of Rajshahi Metropolitan Police; said that the road crash took place when a speeding truck hit the CNG-run three-wheeler from behind.

In the early morning on that day, three workers were killed as they were walking along the street and a speeding truck ran over them in Chattogram city. Sohel Sarkar, a police official of Chattogram; said that the truck was seized and brought to the nearby police station, but the driver managed to escape.

Why did the driver run away? Of course it was his fault. If it was not for reckless driving, the five people would not have met an untimely end on the road in Rajshahi, and the three workers would not have left prematurely in Chattogram. Three families fell into severe financial hardship due to the sudden death of three breadwinners of the low-income families.

Who will take responsibility for the three workers’ families? Who take responsibility for thousands of such families? However, the loss of a loved one is always irreparable.

Film Star Ilias Kanchan, founder and chairman of Nirapad Sarak Chai (We Demand Safe Road); said the government must take initiative to prevent road crashes. Speed is now one of the leading causes for road crashes. Apart from this, the fitness of vehicles, the skill of drivers, the use of helmets on motorcycles, the use of seatbelts for drivers and passengers, and the seating system for children must be ensured in order to save lives on roads, he added.

Not only the two road crashes of November 25 in Rajshahi and Chattogram, deaths on the road are constantly happening in the other parts of Bangladesh even in the traffic jam-prone Dhaka city due to over-speed of vehicles.

The death of 39-year old motorcyclist Ariful Islam, a former president of Bangladesh Chhatra Federation, and his friend Sauvik Karim on November 7 night in a road crash in New Eskaton area in Dhaka city due to the hit of a high speeding truck and after their deaths, several other road crashes in the capital city due to excessive vehicular speeding indicate that if the vehicular speed is controlled, the loss of lives on the road will be reduced and thousands of families will be prevented from being helpless.

“Many lives are lost prematurely on the road due to high vehicular speeding. I lost my husband due to high speeding. I have a job. Somehow, I can run my family. However, the family, whose only breadwinner dies on the road, suffers helplessness throughout life,” said schoolteacher Rebecca Sultana Neela, the widow of road crash victim Ariful Islam.

Why drivers drive recklessly despite regular happenings of road crashes due to high speeding? Why they increase the speed excessively when the road is empty in Dhaka city?

It is often seen that two buses are engaged in wild competition to overtake each other. However, drivers usually have no fixed income. Most transport owners fix the amount for drivers on trip basis, while some bus companies provide wages to drivers as per the waybill. The drivers compete with other buses to earn more or to please the owners.

Advocate Iti Rani Saha, a lawyer in Manikganj; said that her husband was killed at Hemayetpur of Savar, on the outskirts of the capital city, in 2018 due to wild competition of two buses. In a morning, her husband was standing on the roadside. At that time, two Dhaka-bound buses were in race to go first. One of the speedy buses ran over her husband, leaving him bleed to death on the road.

“It is true that we drive on trip basis. It is not just that we drive our vehicle fast all the time hoping for more income. Sometimes there is extra pressure on us to make multiple trips daily on a long route. It happened that I came to Dhaka by my vehicle from Chattogram after driving for 7/8 hours and left Dhaka again for Chattogram for a night trip after an hour without taking any rest,” said a driver of Dhaka-Chattogram-Dhaka transport.

Advocate Syed Mahbubul Alam Tahin, a policy analyst and secretary of Center for Law and Policy Affairs (CLPA); said that drivers are usually not salaried. They earn on trip basis. As a result, they drive with excessive speed in the hope of making more trips and earning more. The drivers should be salaried, which will help to stop reckless driving, he opined.

Talking to Daily Bangladesh Post, he also said that the drivers need to increase their professional skills. Digital technology should also be used to prevent road crashes. Installation of speed detection devices as well as use of speed gun is needed to minimize road crashes.

Traffic police is one of the professional groups involved in ensuring road safety. The traffic police members have the experience that many people die on the roads due to the excessive speed of vehicles. Members of the Traffic Division of Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) usually deal with many people who die due to over-speed of vehicles on Dhaka roads.

Md Munibur Rahman, additional commissioner (traffic) of DMP; said that to prevent road crashes, various initiatives should be taken, including creating awareness among the common people and drivers so that the people walk on city road carefully, while drivers should avoid reckless driving.

Professor Dr Monaim Hossen, an orthopedic surgeon in Dhaka and president of Bangladesh Orthopaedic Society; said, “Many people come to us for treatment following road crashes. A large number of them become victims due to over-speed of vehicles. As an orthopedic surgeon, it seems that the number of road crash victims due to excessive vehicular speeding is increasing.”

However, some other reasons, including faulty road design, plying of unfit vehicles, violation of traffic rules, lack of footpath and pedestrians’ negligence, are also responsible for the road crashes in Dhaka city as well as Bangladesh.

Dr. Md. Shamsul Hoque, a professor at Department of Civil Engineering of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET); argued that massive disorder on the roads, lack of proper management and non-adoption of science-based solution are mainly responsible for indiscriminate road crashes.

Talking to the Daily Bangladesh Post, the former director of BUET’s Accident Research Institute (ARI), however, admitted that excessive vehicular speed is one of the reasons. “Road crashes due to excessive vehicular speed are partially true. Safe road cannot be built by participation of all people. Those concerned should play a vital role. If all departments concerned perform their duties properly, if the planning is good, if scientific solution is adopted and if the irregularities on the roads can be removed, then the road crashes will be reduced,” he said.

However, many other experts on road safety believe that controlling excessive vehicular speed in the context of Bangladesh will reduce the number of deaths and casualties on the road. Reasons for the latest road crashes in Dhaka city and some other parts of the country also point in that direction.

“No single factor can be blamed for road crashes. However, it is true that reduction of speed limit will reduce the number of road crashes and casualties to a great extent as over-speed is leading cause for road crash,” said Taifur Rahman of GRSP.

Talking to Bangladesh Post over telephone from Geneva, he said, “Expressway has been developed in Dhaka city. Various more advanced roads have been built in the country. In terms of the road infrastructure, we think how fast one can reach from one place to another. However, we should also keep in mind how safe it is to get from one place to another.”

Experts on road safety, however, suggested that controlling vehicular speed by formulating and implementing guidelines is a must to save lives on roads. The guideline will set the maximum speed limit for vehicles on the country’s highways, urban roads, regional roads and other roads.

Aminul Islam Sujon, technical adviser (road safety, Bangladesh) of global organisation Vital Strategies; said that speed limit should be fixed on every road to prevent road crashes. Therefore, formulation of guidelines is a must. Alongside the speed guidelines, awareness building among drivers regarding speed control is also needed. The drivers should be brought under training programme, he opined.

Meanwhile, a move is going on to frame a guideline on vehicular speed limit.   Ilias Kanchan of Nirapad Sarak Chai and some other stakeholders are involved in preparing the draft.

Talking to this correspondent, Ilias Kanchan informed that they have already prepared a primary draft and it will be submitted to the ministry concerned.

He made some arguments about the necessity for speed limit guideline. “When a vehicle is moving at a speed of 100-150 km on the road and at this speed if that vehicle hits someone then what can happen there? There is no chance of survival. When a vehicle is speeding on both sides of the road, nothing can be seen properly. At that time, if a person stands on the road, whether he is running or walking, these cannot be observed properly. As a result, road crash happens. For this reason, excessive speed must be limited,” he argued.

Ilias Kanchan also said that the related law says that Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) will set the speed limit. Any speed violation will be fined. The speed limit guideline should be formulated soon, he opined.   

Sk. Md. Mahbub-E-Rabbani, director (road safety) of BRTA; said that they are moving forward to formulate a speed limit guideline. As the excessive vehicular speed is one of the major reasons for road crashes, a guideline is needed in this regard. He, however, said that the proposed guideline will be formulated as soon as possible.

If the speed limit guideline is formulated, it will play a vital role in reducing road crashes also in Dhaka city.

There is probably no separate study or specific data on how many road crashes occur daily in Dhaka city due to over-speed or how many road crashes occur in a year or how many people are victims of high speeding.

However, some recent road crashes in the city prove that the majority of road crashes in this city are due to high speeding or the number of casualties due to high speed has increased.

Just a day before Ariful and his friend were killed by a speedy truck in New Eskaton area, a 35-year-old pedestrian was killed and another injured on November 6 evening as a speeding bus of ‘Manjil Paribahan’ hit them in Moghbazar area, less than a kilometer away from the New Eskaton area. This incident highlights the road crashes one after the other due to excessive speeding.

Most of these road crashes happened at night and early morning. As the roads are empty or usually not congested in the period, drivers drive at high speed and recklessly on empty roads during this time. As a result, road crash occurs.

Abdul Wadud, coordinator of Bloomberg Philanthropies Initiative for Global Road Safety (BIGRS); said that of course, the speed limit will reduce road crashes to a large extent in Dhaka city.

Talking to Bangladesh Post, he, however, said that road design must be changed to save lives on road, while law enforcement is also needed. Use of modern equipment will also help reduce road crashes. On the other hand, awareness must be created among people, pedestrians and drivers. 

Md. Atiqul Islam, mayor of Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC); thinks that adoption of Artificial Intelligence (AI)-driven traffic control system will reduce road crashes.

He, however, emphasized on improvement of zebra crossings in Dhaka city to reduce road crashes. He said that they will take step to make the zebra crossings under the area of DNCC more useful by elevating around six inches from the road level. The DNCC Mayor also emphasised on research on road safety.