Nearly 30,000 killed in road accidents in 4 years, says Passenger Welfare Association of Bangladesh
The government committed to reducing road accidents at least 50% by next year, as part of the UN General Assembly’s Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020, but little progress has been made so far.
Road safety authorities in Bangladesh are struggling to bring discipline to traffic movement across the country, particularly in Dhaka. This, mainly because of the tendency of drivers to violate traffic rules and drive recklessly. Unhealthy competition between bus operators is also a major challenge.
Meanwhile, the country observed National Road Safety Day on Tuesday, with the slogan: “Livelihood not before life, no more road accidents.”
Although the government has enacted a tougher road safety law and raised awareness of road safety among passengers and transport workers, there has been little visible impact on the number of road accidents in the country.
In June this year, Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader told parliament that at least 25,526 people were killed in road accidents over the last 10 years, from January 2009 to April 2019. Another 19,763 people were injured in accidents.
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However, statistics compiled by the Passenger Welfare Association of Bangladesh (PWAB) suggest the figures are even higher. The numbers indicate 29,315 people killed and 69,428 injured in a staggering 21,386 road accidents across the country in just four years, from January 2015 to December 2018.
Data from the Accident Research Institute (ARI) of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (Buet) said at least 3,488 people were killed and 5,863 injured in 3,131 road accidents between January 1 and October 18 this year.
Initiatives to improve road safety
Following the death of two college students, parliament passed the Road Transport Act, 2018, on September 19 last year. President Abdul Hamid approved the law on October 9 the same year.
However, the law is yet to come into effect as the required notification has not been published. Furthermore, the ruling from the act has not been drafted.
The government formed a high powered committee in February this year, to make recommendations for cutting down road accidents and bringing discipline to the roads.
The committee, headed by former shipping minister Shajahan Khan, submitted its report in April. The report includes 111 recommendations, and a taskforce to implement the recommendations was formed in September.
The recommendations include 50 that are to be implemented immediately, by December this year. However, the taskforce is yet to begin its work.
The recommendations by the committee include mandatory social awareness campaigns using films, billboard screenings, campaigns on bus tickets, and mass media.
The committee also recommended that traffic laws be integrated into the academic curriculum up to the 10th grade by 2020, and that the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) train 1,000 skilled driving instructors.
Furthermore, it was recommended that 5% of national funding be allocated for development of roads and highways, and that road and transport related organizations deposit 1-2% of their annual profit into the fund.
Stressing the need for programs to raise awareness of road safety, PWAB Secretary Mozammel Haque said the government should engage students of schools, colleges, and universities to make awareness campaigns successful.