Marked 7 % rise in road fatalities despite heightened road safety campaign
Bikers and pillion riders wearing helmets on Dhaka streets was not a common site up until late last year. Now things have changed for better.
Tragic deaths of two college-goers in a road accident on Airport Road triggered a nationwide outrage against gross violations of traffic rules. That prompted traffic police to go on awareness drives several times in quick successions including the one they launched yesterday.
Such drives surely helped people better understand the value of maintaining traffic rules.
But if statistics of road crash fatalities is something to go by – Bangladesh needs to walk extra miles to reach the level where pedestrians, drivers and all other stakeholders become more aware and yearly death tolls from road crashes subside.
Despite last year's massive nationwide road safety movement, the country has continued to witness a large number of road accidents, with total fatalities reaching 4,580 in 2018.
Fatalities numbered 1,735 in the last five months. On average, 347 people died between August and December, despite the nine-day protest that brought all major cities—primarily Dhaka—to a standstill from July 29.
The protests erupted when students took to the streets to demand justice for the death of two college students, who were killed by a speeding bus on Airport Road at Kurmitola, in Dhaka, on the same day.
However, last year's overall percentage of deaths from road accidents is almost 7% higher than that of 2017, when 4,284 lives were lost.
Bangladesh also registered a significant increase, 19.58%, in road accidents in 2018 compared to 2017. Compared to 3,472 accidents in 2017, there were 4,317 deaths in 2018.
The National Committee to Protect Shipping, Roads and Railways (NCPSRR), a non-government organization, published the figures in their latest study.
The number of injured from accidents also jumped to 10,828 throughout 2018, and had previously stood at 9,112 in 2017.
As many as 679 children and 591 women were killed last year; where the figure for the two groups stood at 539 and 516 respectively in 2017.
The study was conducted based on news reports published by several media outlets in the country, the NCPSRR says.
In 2016, there were 2,998 road accidents resulting in 3,412 deaths—including 470 women and 453 children—and 8,572 injured individuals.
NCPSRR General Secretary Ashis Kumar Dey said they have identified 11 key reasons for the growing number of traffic fatalities.
“Reckless driving, use of overloaded vehicles, gross violations of traffic rules in densely populated areas, an increase in the number of motorbikes and three-wheelers on highways, unskilled drivers, and distracted driving are among the major reasons,” he said.
Ashis also attributed the escalating number of road accidents to the tendency to overtake, locally-mechanized vehicles, and pedestrians not using foot-over bridges.
Fatalities rising during Eid
During the last Eid-ul-Fitr, in the span of 13 days starting from June 12, there were 211 road accidents which killed 248 people and injured 717 others.
Meanwhile, during the holidays of Eid-ul-Azha, 142 people were killed and 318 were injured in 96 road accidents from August 15 to August 25.
More than 16 lives were claimed, on average, daily during the two Eid holidays.
The number of people dying in road accidents each day, in 2018, was a little over 12.
'Stricter implementation of traffic laws can reduce fatalities'
Professor Dr Md Mizanur Rahman, director of the Accident Research Institute at Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (Buet), finds the overall deaths in road accidents “low” in comparison to the density of population.
However, the figure appears much higher when it comes to the number of vehicles on local roads and highways, compared to that of other countries, he said.
Mizanur furthered that the punishment in the Road Transport Act 2018—a five-year jail term for casualties caused by reckless driving—could have been stricter.
"There are still possibilities to reduce the death toll if the law is implemented properly," he said.
He added that accidents cost Bangladesh around 2% of its gross domestic product annually.
"Casualties will decrease significantly once most of the highways have four lanes," Mizanur said. "There also needs to be mass awareness of traffic rules."