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11 July, 2018 00:00 00 AM

The challenges for safe roads in Bangladesh

One of the most challenging issues is to ensure that all the drivers are well-trained and have valid licences
M. Zahidul Islam
The challenges for safe roads in Bangladesh

Road accidents have been occurring as the most shocking, undesirable and unexpected regular phenomenon that touches our heart and soul with immense pain and sorrow. Whenever we come across the news of any accident our honest instincts drive us to get rid of this menace. It encourages many people, organisations, communities and intellectuals to make some contributions for stopping the accidents. Quite a good number of researchers, academicians, lawyers, journalists, national and international organisations have already come forward with their observations, comments, suggestions and recommendations for ensuring the safety of the roads. The Government along with some organisations have been trying very hard to make the road safe for all of us but unfortunately the most horrendous statistical reports of accidents made us nervous, frightened and absolutely insecure in any road journey. According to the National Committee to Protect Shipping, Roads and Railways (NCPSRR), at least 61,512 people were killed, and 102,618 others were injured in 55,141 road accidents  from 2005 to 2017 and in 2018 at least 2,471 people died in 2,353 road accidents across the country in the past six months.

Some official directives include: drive-time limitations on drivers of long-route vehicles, keeping reserved drivers on long-route vehicles, restricting them to a maximum of five hours drive time at a stretch, training drivers and helpers, installing service centres or restrooms for drivers at regular intervals on highways, preventing jaywalking, making sure everyone follows traffic signals and fastens seatbelts.

Many organisations, communities and groups have been working for road safety in Bangladesh, including: 1) Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA), 2) Accident Research Institute, BUET, 3) Bangladesh Police, 4) Safe Road and Transport Alliance (SROTA), 5) Bangladesh Sarak Paribahan Malik Samity, 6) Bangladesh Road Transport Workers Federation, 7) Bangladesh Passengers Welfare Association ( BPWA), 8) Nirapad Sarak Chai (We Demand Safe Road), 9) Dhaka Road Transport Owner Association, 10) Dhaka Metro Regional Transport Committee, 11) National Human Rights Commission, 12) National Committee to Protect Shipping, Roads and Railways (NCPSRR), 13) Bangladesh Health Injury Survey (BHIS), 14) Centre for Injury Prevention and Research, Bangladesh (CIPRB), of the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), 15) Dhaka Urban Transport Network Development, 16) Bangladesh Bus-Truck Owners' Association, 17) Bangladesh Society for Emergency Medicine, BRAC, 18) Power and Participation Research Centre (PPRC) etc. The remarkable contributions of all these organisations and community groups include:

a)provide statistical information of accidents, b) identify the reasons for accidents, c) advice the remedial measures for preventing accidents and casualties, d) emphasise the need for monitoring and evaluation of existing system, e) suggestions for improving rules and regulations and their enforcements, f ) elimination of irregularities and corruptions, h) incite the need for public awareness and the development of  road signs, posters, booklets and training materials and  i) highlight the importance of research and development.

It is essential to define genuine sources of data, methods of collection, collate, analysis, presentation, preservation and provisions for checking the authenticity. So that we can have reliable data and avoid any controversies (e.g. recently the ministry of transport defies the statistics of accidents made by one organisation).

It is very important to know how to makeresponse to an accident including duties of the drivers involved in the accident, how to call police or ambulance, how to deal with casualties having major or minor injuries, safety of the passengers, role of the passer-by or onlookers, how to deal with moving traffics and safety of other vehicles, basic knowledge of First-aids, carrying of First-aid box and other safety equipment on long route journey. It is the responsibility of all of us to know the traffic rules and follow the rules for our own safety and to make sure the safety of others. Law enforcing agencies can help us within the course of their duties and responsibilities but to make sure that the laws must be followed by all concerned.

This is the biggest challenge to make our roads safe. Many people have been raising their voice against corruption as one of the major causes of accidents.

Each driver should ask their own conscience before driving a vehicle that ‘is it safe for my own life and also for the passengers and public?’ Why should we take the risk of our own life by driving a vehicle unworthy of road and risking the life of others as well? The person responsible for issuing MOT should also ask his own heart ‘is he doing the right thing or risking the valuable life of others?’ BRTA report shows among the 50 lakh vehicles plying on the roads 72 percent of which are lack of fitness clearance. So it’s huge challenge to put the system on the right track. The government is competent enough to issue proper MOTs but only it requires a fair judgement and strong determination to stop any mismanagement. In this regard, the government should consider giving licence to well-equipped ‘Independent MOT testing centre’ run by competent and trusted company (as is being done in the Western World). It will also help to reduce the pressure on the public sector and minimise the corruption.    

One of the most challenging issues is to ensure that all the drivers are well-trained having valid licence. According to BPWA about 16 lakh out of 70 lakh drivers didn’t have driving licence. It implicates a vast responsibility of training existing and new drivers. So we need to expand the drivers training facilities across the country to address this enormous challenge. The training institutions should consider ‘specific training need assessments’ for car, jeep, motor cycle, trucks, bus, mini-bus, lorries, slow-moving vehicles etc.  

The greatest challenge is to keep ourselves always aware about the sequels of accidents.It would help us psychologically and physically careful to avoid any accident as it enlivens our conscious as well as subconscious mind for unforeseen incidents. Awareness can prevent the tendency of reckless high speed driving and violation of traffic rules. We have to keep ourselves aware:

a) By reminding the consequences of accidents that include:

•    Loss of life

•    Loss of physical ability including loss any organs or limbs or any parts of the body, can make blind, maim, loss of memory, lifelong disability etc.

•    Damaging vehicles, roads, any other infrastructures, materials, resources etc.

•    Destroying environments, increasing pollutions etc.

•    Creates social chaos, political unrest, commotion, accelerates violation of rules etc.

•    Disrupts communications, traffics, causes additional sufferings of the people etc.

•    Loss in GDP 2 percent or Tk40,000 crore per year

In June 2017 Bangladesh declared October 22 as National Safe Roads Day. Observations of this day through meetings, rallies, seminars, workshops, fairs;  broadcasts special programmes in TV channels and publications in newspapers, magazines etc. would tremendously help to create public awareness.

Transport sector is one of the most important lifelines of development of our country and we have so far successfully identified the problems and our weaknesses. We also know their remedies and how to face the challenges to take our nation from bottomless basket to the launching of ‘Bangabandhu satellite-1’ in universal orbit. Now we only need the implementation oftarget bound action programmes to fulfil our commitment to achieve the goal 11 of the SDG by 'providing access to safe, affordable, accessible and sustainable transport systems for all’.

The writer is former editor, Journal of the Institution of Engineers, Bangladesh.  Agricultural Engineering Division, Dhaka and Former Water Control Expert, SPFS, FAO of the UN



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Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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