About 500 people on an average have been killed in road crashes in the first three months of this year.
Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA), Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP), and Dhaka Transport Coordination Authority (DTCA) have blamed drivers for 90% of the accidents, citing rash driving as the main reason.
They explained that drivers compete with each other to get more passengers.
But the drivers put the blame on the passengers, saying that the passengers constantly hassle them to drive fast, distracting them from focusing on the road.
Experts have stressed raising awareness among passengers and have discouraged the drivers from having desperate and competitive attitudes on the road. They also urged the owners to change the mindset of renting vehicles to drivers on contractual basis.
According to DMP, over 1,000 people were killed in road crashes in the first three months of 2018, but Bangladesh Passengers Welfare Association (BPWA) data, compiled from national dailies, show the number is at least 1,500 people.
BPWA data indicate that 514 people were killed and 1,353 were injured in 499 accidents in January. The next month, 459 people died and 1,521 were injured in 439 road crashes. In March, 483 people were killed and 1,506 were injured in 491 accidents.
Out of all accidents across Bangladesh, 70% of the victims are pedestrians. Among them, 54% of the victims from urban accidents are pedestrians, according to Buet’s Accident Research Institute (ARI).
“Police reports only count crashes between two vehicles while the rest remain almost ignored,” said Kazi Md Saifun Newaz, an assistant professor at ARI.
“Frequent traffic accidents are taking place because of reckless driving, overtaking tendency, lack of using foot over bridges by pedestrians, lack of traffic responsibility of passengers,” he said.
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Newaz pointed out that drivers become desperate to make up for the time they are stuck in traffic jams.
But he said the blame should not be put on drivers alone because there are many engineering mistakes, such as lack of zebra crossing or faded zebra crossings and foot-over bridges and underpass in inappropriate places, that lead to traffic crashes.
“We need more zebra crossings, barricades in the middle of the street, and the pedestrians should use foot over bridges to strengthen the traffic control system,” he said.
BPWA Secretary General Mozammel Haque Chowdhury said road chaos was increasing as the traffic control system was slow. “Road accidents are on the rise not only because of traffic congestion but also due to untrained drivers.” he said.
According to BRTA, there are around 3.3 million registered vehicles in the country but the number of license holders is only 1.8 million.
BPWA Secretary General Mozammel, however, claimed that around 1.5 million vehicles operate in Bangladesh in addition to the registered ones.
“This means there could be over three million legal and illegal vehicles being driven by unqualified drivers who are not only risking themselves, but putting a large number of people in peril,” he added.
Mahbub-E-Rabbani, director (road safety) of BRTA, said many drivers have license to operate medium vehicles but they illegally drive heavy vehicles.
“BRTA organized driver’s training service to develop their skills. But when applying, drivers go for medium vehicles license as they are not ready to operate heavy vehicles, but use their permits to drive buses or trucks,” he said.
Mir Rezaul Alam, the DMP additional commissioner (traffic), told the Dhaka Tribune that their traffic control system had been strengthened.
“When the coverage of the road extends, it sees a rise in the number of vehicles and accidents. But if you see the trend, you will find that the volume of road accidents has decreased over time as we are working to bring discipline on the streets,” he said.
The government is undertaking many development works including introduction of new bus service, metro rail, separate lane system and installation of foot over bridges at major points.
“In Dhaka, inefficient and unskilled drivers are running the mass transport system, causing so many accidents. Many of the drivers do not have valid licences. Police also fails to enforce traffic laws strictly because of lack of manpower in traffic division, recklessness of the drivers, and scattered movement of the pedestrians,” he added.
DTCA Traffic Engineer Md Anisur Rahman blamed anarchy of the bus transport sector in Dhaka as one of the reasons for the road accidents.
“By 2020, the buses of a selective company will operate on every route, and in such way the government will be able to determine where the buses will make stoppage and prevent contractual basis driving system,” he said.
He hoped that the Master Planning Activities to reduce traffic congestion in the city including establishment of metro rail, elevated expressway will help reduce traffic jams that will lead to reduction in numbers of road accidents.