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Dhaka Tribune

Road safety left out of proposed transport law

Update : 09 Feb 2016, 07:38 PM

The government is ready to finalise a draft of a new road transport act to discipline the transport and traffic systems; but experts point out that the authorities have failed to include any clause on road accident or road safety in the proposed law.

Reportedly, the draft act recommends no penalty against drivers or others who are responsible for an accident.

The draft reportedly ignores many key suggestions made in a 2011 government report, which was prepared at a cost of Tk2 crore as a recommendation for the draft law.

The issues that were left out in the draft act includes the minimum educational status of a licensed driver, and punishment and fine for any accident. Analysts say the omissions were made because of pressure from influential people who allegedly control the transport sector.

Different stakeholders, NGOs and transport specialists have rejected the draft and demanded that suggestions from the 2011 report be incorporated into the new law.

“We have already rejected the draft law … because the government made the draft ineffective by dropping the suggestions from experts,” Engineer Enamul Haque, adviser to National Committee to Protect Shipping, Roads and Railways, told the Dhaka Tribune.

“The draft act will not be effective in ensuring discipline in road transport sector. Road accidents and traffic management are the major focuses, but these are absent in the act,” he added.

Former director of Accident Research Institute at Buet, Prof Shamsul Hoque, said: “You will not find a road transport act in the world where punishment is not included against drivers responsible for road accidents.

“The present draft act is very simple and does not cover many important issues that are related to road safety.

“Some powerful people and politicians are creating a barrier so they can include their own recommendations in the draft,” the civil engineering professor said.

But Secretary Shawkat Ali of the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority told the Dhaka Tribune that the draft was almost ready with suggestions from stakeholders. “Our plan is to finalise the draft this month. Then it will be sent to the legislative division for legal queries. Then the draft is to be sent to the cabinet for approval.”

Commenting on why the issue of road accidents was not included in the draft act, Shawkat said it was not needed as road accident cases have always been tried under the penal code.

What the draft includes and misses

According to the draft act, the minimum age of drivers has been set at 18 for small vehicles and 21 for professional drivers. Drivers above the age of 60 must undergo a medical test to hold a driving licence.

If passed, the act would also introduce a point-scoring system to penalise drivers with each recorded offence. When a licence holder’s points are deducted to zero, the licence will be permanently confiscated.

The draft mentions minor fines or jail terms for offences including driving while using cell phones or headphones, driving under the influence of alcohol, without a seat belt, for breaking the speed limit, and violating highway codes, signs or signals.

Professional drivers will not be allowed to operate any vehicle without an appointment letter, while conductors must be approved by the BRTA.

All vehicles must have radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags, according to the draft.

According to the draft legislation, the BRTA will be able to fix the maximum number of private vehicles a family can own, and limit the number of vehicles in any district, zone or area.

The recommendation for all drivers to have the minimum educational qualification of passing the SSC exam was dropped from the draft.

The new draft also does not change the punishment for driving without a licence, which is  a six-month imprisonment or Tk10,000 fine or both.

It also failed to include a clause on punishment for those causing road accidents.

When contacted, Ilias Kanchan, chairman of Nirapad Sarak Chai, a movement for road safety, said they have long been demanding death penalty for the drivers found guilty of causing accidents.

“It is quite impossible to ensure safety without a tough law. The draft is so soft that it would not prevent accidents,” Ilias Kanchan said. 

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