6,686 people were killed and 8,600 people were injured in 2020
Before 2pm yesterday, 11 people in two separate road accidents were killed on our national highways, injuring multiple more.
It would not be surprising to find out that dozens more have perished since -- just as the collision of two buses in Sylhet took seven lives, or the three passengers in a CNG autorickshaw perished after being hit by a bus in Bogra.
These incidents are no longer events, but patterns in behaviour, which not only highlight the primary culprit in most cases -- the death machine that is the bus -- but the persistently hopeless environment of recklessness and subsequent impunity that is present on the roads, streets, alleys, and highways of Bangladesh.
A glance at a slightly bigger picture makes this evident -- in January alone, almost 500 people were killed and close to 700 people were injured thanks to over 400 road accidents. According to the Road Safety Foundation, the accident rate is over 25% higher than it was during the same period last year, with fatalities resulting from those accidents seeing an almost 9% increase.
Stepping further back, a look at the entirety of 2020 reveals that 6,686 people were killed and 8,600 people were injured across 4,891 accidents -- in a year where, for the most part, the country was in lockdown.
These numbers betray the unsavoury fact that Bangladesh’s dreams of middle-income status and progress are not only under threat due to a culture that has continuously failed to value the lives of its citizens, but furthermore, that such a reality is incompatible with any true idea of progress and turns middle-income status into nothing more than another rung on a limitless ladder.
At this point in time, traffic accidents have become nothing less than part of Bangladesh’s cultural heritage.
What needs to be done to fix the current situation on our streets has been stated enough times to warrant their repetition futile. The only questions which remain are these: Will the necessary steps ever be taken? And, if so, when?