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Highway deaths expose govt negligence

  • Published at 02:32 am September 21st, 2016
Highway deaths expose govt negligence
The need for enforcement of a strict law has resurfaced recently in the wake of some deadly road crashes occurred during the Eid-ul-Azha vacation. According to reports, road accidents robbed the lives of at least 171 people in just 10 days during Eid festivities, from September 9 to September 18. Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader acknowledges that people are being killed on the roads like birds due to reckless driving as the government has failed to maintain discipline in the highways. Asked why the government had failed failed to enforce the law, the minister refused to make any comment and suggested to talk to the secretary of the Road Transport and Highways Division (RTHD). Secretary MAN Siddique told the Dhaka Tribune that they had almost finalised the draft law. “Hopefully it will be completed within a month and then submitted to the cabinet for final approval before its passage in parliament into a law.” He said that it was a huge task. “There are many stake holders. We have talked to them several times, arranged workshops, got feedback from common people ...” Experts are however sceptical whether the law would be able to change the scenario of indisciplined transport system. Prof Shamsul Haque of Buet’s civil engineering department alleged that the government was working on the Act avoiding the suggestions given by experts and civil society members. He said: “Experts recommended rational punishment for those who break the rules, but punishments for road traffic offences will remain the same as they are in the existing Motor Vehicles Act, 1983.” According to the BRTA, the Motor Vehicles Ordinance, 1983 is almost the same as now-obsolete Motor Act, 1939. In 2010, the government took the initiative to upgrade the Act as the existing laws failed to bring discipline to the transport sector. The draft was ready in 2011, but it was cancelled in the face of protests by the transport owners and workers. Four years later, it was revised decreasing the extent of punishments. According to the draft law, drivers causing death or major injury by reckless driving in a motor vehicle accident will be punished under the Penal Code 1986. As per penal code, a driver would be sentenced to three years in prison such an accident. They will also be fined between Tk15,000 and Tk150,000. It adds a provision for compensatory payment in the event of a death resulting from a road accident and a debit from the proposed point system, as well as three years’ suspension of the licence. The draft suggests one year jail or Tk20,000 fines or both for reckless driving or overtaking menacingly. BRTA Chairman Md Nazrul Islam said that the Highway Police had been given speed measuring guns to ensure that the government fixed 80km/hour for highways is followed. “The drivers will be punished once the Road Transport Act is turned into a law,” he told the Dhaka Tribune.