My teammate Ashiq and I were returning from Cox’s Bazar on an 8pm coach. The coach was fabulously decorated with comfortable seats and the Cox’s Bazar-Dhaka ticket cost us Tk2,000 each.
Our Cox’s Bazar-Chittagong journey was quite smooth, and the driver drove the bus quite sensibly; in fact, he had nothing else to do but be sensible.
However, when we crossed Chittagong on the Dhaka-Chittagong road, the driver went crazy, driving recklessly, scaring the passengers. Some of us wanted to alert him about his recklessness, but didn’t want to make him angry.
When our night-time coach reached Comilla, we couldn’t resist ourselves. A few among us approached the supervisor and told him to brief the driver to drive carefully. Otherwise, we warned, we would inform the law enforcers.
The driver seemed to listen at that point. The rest of our journey was a little safe, as he was going under 100km/h.
I wish I could describe how scared-to-death we were on that bus. I inquired about his reckless driving and the supervisor informed us that they needed to enter Dhaka city by six in the morning. If they could enter Dhaka by that time, the bus could go up to its Kalabagan stand but if they failed to enter the city by that time, they’d have to end the journey at Fakirapul.
It’s not only a single journey, but most of my bus journeys have given me the same experience of fear. When I look back in time, I only thank God that I had survived all those journeys. I remember a decade ago, my family and I were coming from Chittagong on a coach.
I requested the driver to drive carefully and slowly. The driver got so angry with me that he amped up his recklessness. After that experience, I usually don’t request any driver to drive safely. I leave my safety to God.
But is that a healthy and sensible thing to do? If we count the number of citizens dying due to this reckless driving across the country, the picture would be a horrific one.
These deaths are preventable if we only apply our existing laws. These deaths are preventable if we only increase our own personal integrity a little bit. These deaths are preventable if we run honest investigations when these incidents occur and disclose the reports
A newspaper reported on February 15, quoting a government-supervised survey, that on average, 64 people die every day from injuries suffered in traffic accidents.
A Dhaka Tribune report on February 2 claimed that 416 persons were killed in road accidents across the country in January 2017. Are we counting correctly? Even Syria -- a country where countless die daily -- doesn’t have a death count so high. And Bangladesh isn’t a war-torn country.
According research run by the Accident Research Institute of BUET, “speedy” driving causes 53% of the road accidents across Bangladesh while 37% are caused by the drivers’ recklessness.
The research also said that 10% of the accidents took place due to other causes, including the state of the roads and highways.
The deathcounts in the cities and towns are no fewer than on the highways. Almost every other day, school-going children fall prey to reckless bus drivers and die. They are simply killed due to no fault of their own.
Remember, a drunk reckless driver hit Prothom Alo photojournalist Zia recently. Remember how journalist Zaglul Ahmed Chowdhury was hit and killed by a bus at Karwan Bazar intersection two years ago?
What is the media doing regarding these deaths? The media needs to run an intense campaign against reckless driving and the subsequent deaths.
We have seen many cases against these deaths but the judgments of these heinous crimes are still pending. The recent judgment came to light because of two eminent persons: Mishuk Munier and Tareque Masud.
These deaths are preventable if we only apply our existing laws. These deaths are preventable if we only increase our own personal integrity a little bit. These deaths are preventable if we run honest investigations when these incidents occur and disclose the reports.
We should also hold the bus-truck-car owners responsible for reckless driving. If a chauffeur breaks a traffic law, his/her employer should also be penalised for the violation.
If a bus driver is found guilty of killing a human, his employer should also be penalised for the crime.
And at the end of the day, our law enforcers need to have enough integrity to solve this problem. Until our law enforcers show true integrity while shouldering their responsibility, this procession of death won’t stop in Bangladesh.
Ekram Kabir is a fiction writer.