Motor vehicles driving without any regard for speed limits are a leading cause of accidents in the country.
The law related to speeding is rarely enforced, and instead a reliance on speed breakers actually contributes to more accidents than it helps at curbing speeding vehicles.
Speeding contributes to more than 53% of all road accidents that place in Bangladesh, a study by Buet’s Accident Research Institute (ARI) found last year.
ARI Director Prof Moazzem Hossain told the Dhaka Tribune: “Our study shows that speeding is one of the major causes of fatal accidents.”
“The government has set the highway speed limit at 80km/h. However, not only do the drivers not follow the rules, the authorities concerned fail at implementing the order as well,” he added.
In a programme conducted by Brac from May 8-14 in observance of the Fourth UN Road Safety Week which ran with the slogan Save Lives: #SlowDown, civil society members demanded that the speed limit be set at 30km/h in Dhaka.
Although both the current road traffic law and the draft Road Transport Act 2017 tackle the problem of road accidents occurring due to speeding, neither, claim civil society members, provide a strong enough incentive for drivers to stop speeding on the country’s highways.
The law currently in effect, the Motor Vehicles Ordinance 1983, has a maximum punishment of Tk500 fine and a one-month suspension of driving license for speeding.
The present draft Road Transport Act 2017 has however increased the punishment to a maximum of two years in prison, or Tk2 lakh as fine. The new law also stipulates that if speeding leads to injury, then the owner, driver and the helper will face a maximum three years of prison or Tk25 lakh fine, or both.
Most speeding related accidents occurred because of the speed breakers on highways to curtail speeding, say experts. Many of the speed breakers on highways were unmarked, most drivers failed to spot them and slow down, especially at night.
Road Transport and Highways Division Secretary MAN Siddique said: “We are removing speed breakers from the roads to minimise accidents, but the initiative has not been effective thus far. People who have businesses or residences near highways, pay off road construction crews, and put up their own speed breakers in various locations.
When asked about initiatives to address the issue of accidents caused by speeding, the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) Secretary Muhammad Showkat Ali said they had introduced awareness building campaigns and that the highway police had also been equipped with speedometers, or speed guns.
Atiqul Islam, the deputy inspector general of Highway Police, however, said while the speed guns were effective in measuring speeds, it did not mean that police were able to effectively tackle speeders.
“On average, 180 speeding cases are filed daily across the country. What matters is what happens to these speeding drivers afterwards,” he added.
Transport Division Secretary Siddique said: “Most of the drivers and owners who do not follow the rules are the ones who come from influential and wealthy families. We have been working on tightening the rules so that no law breaker goes unpunished.”
“A few years ago, the government identified 265 black spots or areas which are highly accident prone. Most of these roads had sharp curves and drivers driving at high speeds were often unable to make the turns. So we have straightened out the curves and placed road dividers for two-way flow,” explained Siddique, adding, “We are now constructing new highways and upgrading the roads such as the Dhaka-Rangpur, Dhaka-Mawa, Dhaka-Sylhet highways with a separate lane for low speed vehicles.”