Our lives are at stake
With a year having passed since an unlicensed driver of a Dhaka bus took the lives of two high-school students -- an incident which sparked nationwide protests by students -- one would have hoped that the system under which our traffic functioned would have seen some improvement to ensure safety on the roads.
Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth.
A year on, the streets remain just as chaotic as they were, with the number of people lost to traffic accidents seemingly increasingly every day.
In the first six months of this year, there were 2,159 road accidents leading to 2,329 fatalities -- a gruesome reminder of the fact that our roads remain just as dangerous as it always has been, if not more.
But, with almost a million unlicensed drivers traversing the roads and highways of our country according to the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority, the gradual normalization of death on the streets of this country should come as no surprise.
Another thing of little surprise is the fact that most accidents are caused by public buses, which continue to be run by these unlicensed drivers who, due to poorly implemented traffic laws and a lacklustre judiciary, continue to escape scot-free.
Despite promises of several initiatives by the government to improve the current system as it stands, such as designating marked bus stops and removing unfit vehicles, these plans have yet to see the light of day.
The problem is worsened by the self-serving trip-based public transport system -- whereby bus drivers and conductors’ incomes are tied to the number of passengers and trips made -- which infuses competitiveness on the roads to the extent that it inevitably leads to danger and oftentimes physical confrontation between competing modes of public transport.
This can no longer stand and the authorities must change the system completely: This means enforcing the law, punishing perpetrators, designating bus stops, and a more controlled system of public transport.
Our lives are at stake.