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Dhaka Tribune roundtable on road safety: Political will, strict enforcement of law vital for safer roads

  • Published at 04:45 pm September 30th, 2018
road safety meeting
Speakers at a roundtable titled “Road Safety in Bangladesh: Causes and Remedies” at Dhaka Tribune Conference Hall on SundayRajib Dhar/Dhaka Tribune

They stated this at the ‘Road Safety in Bangladesh: Causes and Remedies,’ roundtable on Sunday morning

Political will, building awareness and strict enforcement of laws are vital to bring discipline in the country’s critical traffic system, said speakers at a round table held on Sunday.

Democracy International and Dhaka Tribune under the Strengthening Political Landscape (SPL) Project, funded by USAID and UKAID, jointly organized the round table on “Road Safety in Bangladesh: Causes and Remedies,” at the Conference Hall of the Dhaka Tribune on Sunday morning.

The participants – including politicians, heads of government and non-governmental organizations, transport owners, civil society members and the media personalities – highlighted the problems surfacing the current traffic system and recommended solutions to overcome the situation.Lipika Biswas, senior project manager at Democracy International in Bangladesh, moderated the discussion.

“Road accidents" is a major problem in the country. But this is not so sturdy that it cannot be solved,” said film star and chairman of Nirapad Sarak Chai Ilias Kanchan.

The government should take cautionary, effective and prompt action to reduce this problem.

“It is the duty of government to create public awareness about the road safety rules. It requires political will and necessary policy. The issue must be included in the education system,” he suggested. 

Managing Director of Assoconsult Ltd,Architect Mubassher Hossain said,“The primary reason for the accidents is the number of illegal vehicles and unskilled drivers that lack even the basic training. It is very pathetic that thousands of unfit vehicles are plying the city roads but no effective measures are taken to stop them.To ensure road safety, firstly, safety on the city roads and highways should be assured.” 

“Secondly, service roads should be built prior to highways. Characteristically highways are supposed to be uninterrupted but in context of our country, both human activities including setting up of markets and cattle grazing on the highways go together,” he said. 

“If we can create service roads alongside the highways and prevent local transport movement on the highways, accidents can be reduced significantly,” he said. 

“The government should empower city mayors and bring city corporations, responsible ministries under one umbrella to eradicate traffic congestion in the capital.

“Highway police, sergeants and drivers should be trained to bring order on the streets.”He emphasized on a bus route franchise system as a possible solution to the crisis. 

“When an accident occurs, usually a sub-inspector is assigned to investigate into the incident. But the investigator must have a basic knowledge about the 4Es—engineering, education, enforcement and environment. Do you think our sub-inspectors have knowledge about these? If we do not even know these things, then how can we investigate into an accident?” BRTA Director Mahbub asked.

 “Working in the transportation sector without an educational qualification is risky. There are many technical issues that are required to be understood.  But educated people are not interested in being a part of this sector. We have failed to make the transportation sector an honorable profession,” he added.

State Minister for Local Government and Rural Development and President of Bangladesh Road Transport Owners’ Association (BRTOA) Mashiur Rahman Ranga, Actress and Mohila AwamiLeague General Secretary for Cultural Affairs Rokeya Prachy,Chief of Party forDemocracy International in Bangladesh Katie Croake, Dhaka Tribune Editor Zafar Sobhan and its Strategy and Planning Editor AS Asiful Islam, spoke at the program. 

State Minister Mashiur blamed three-wheelers including auto and electric rickshaws for highway accidents along with reckless driving, unfit vehicles and drivers without licences.  “The government after much hard labour hasrecently formulated a law to curb irregularities onthe roads. Now we have the laws but we need them to be strictly implemented,” he said.

Mashiur, also the BRTOA representative, said, “Close circuit cameras have been installed in the capital to monitor reckless driving. The system should be introduced across the country to punish the guilty drivers. The BRTOA is ready to finance the government in this regard.” 

He also proposed repairing unfit vehicles and handing them over to educational institutes to transport students. 

Dhaka Tribune Editor Zafar Sobhan said, “Road safety is a crucial issue. Recently, we have experienced youths’ movement demanding road safety thathad a serious impact and shook the country. They called for action and change;it is our duty now to bring it into practice.” 

“In my observation, most accidents occur due to reckless drivingbybuses and truck drivers. We need to give special attention to transportation sectors,” he added. 

Strategic and Planning Editor AS Asiful Islam of the Dhaka Tribune said: “We have many laws, another strong law is coming into effect, but we need to see that the law is strictly enforced.” 

“Not only the drivers should be held accountable but commercial vehicle owners and police who enforce laws should work alongside each other. A collective effort is needed to solve the problem,” he said. 

Katie Croake said: “The road safety issue is not a political issue. Everyone wants safe roadsbut we need to hear from political leaders and experts what they want to do to improve the situation?” 

“We look forward for such discussions to continuethat care about the citizens mostly ahead of election,” she said. 

Other attendees at the round-table were Md Mahbub-e-Rabbani, director (road safety) at Bangladesh Road Transport Authority, Jharna Barai, organizing secretary of Bangladesh Mohila League, Amena Kohinur Alam, member of Bangladesh Awami League, Sabina Yeasmin, former convener of Dhaka district Bangladesh Jatiyatabadi Mohila Dal, Israt Jahan Panna, former joint secretary of Dhaka district Bangladesh Jatiyatabadi Mohila Dal, Tarak Aziz, president of Dhaka district Volunteer For Bangladesh, and Esha Chowdhury, executive director of TraumaLink, Shahnewaj Shohan, vice-president of Meherpur district Bangladesh Chhatra League, and Md. Alamgir Hossain Labu, general secretary of the ward  committee of the Bangladesh Jatiyotabadi Dal.

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