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There are no happy accidents

  • Published at 12:03 pm June 26th, 2018
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Each day takes away a few more lives / RAJIB DHAR

Reckless driving rests in the heart of our traffic system

On the road, there are no happy accidents.

With each passing year (nay, each day), it has become more and more difficult to deny the fact that reckless driving rests, rather snugly, in the heart of our traffic system.

Each day brings with it not hope, but fresh incidents of new road-related mishaps.

And each day takes away a few more Bangladeshi lives needlessly. 

As someone who has written regularly for the past few years, it must be at least over a dozen times that I have touched upon (nay, embraced) the sorry state of affairs that is our traffic situation (from traffic jams to public transport to accidents). 

Accidents will happen

Yet, this issue, like a physically abusive former lover, continues to return, refusing to die, instantly reverting to old habits, and we, for some reason, continue to take it back into our arms. Nothing is forgiven, nothing is forgotten. But we, as a segregated collective, continue to believe that this is merely the best we are ever going to get, that this is how it must be.

How can we find it remotely acceptable, and in many cases almost mandatory, that traffic laws are merely words written on a piece of paper that we can choose to ignore as we wish? 

How can the status quo remain such that driving on the wrong side, speeding, turning without indicating, and a host of other such potentially lethal moves are normalized to such an extent? 

Why is it that we have become so desensitized to near-misses and close calls (to say nothing of the rising death toll) that when we experience them ourselves personally, we remain so utterly unfazed and brush it off, even though we had been millimetres away from injury and death?

While it is easy to blame the lacklustre implementation of traffic laws and the corruption within our government for the current state of decay, this excuse no longer cuts it.

While this remains most definitely an undeniable factor in the overall ethos of our traffic system, such an excuse posits that we are a people who are unable to govern themselves. 

If so, are we then willing to admit that, without laws and the threat of punishment, Bangladeshis are incapable of being dutiful citizens, of caring for the loss of life and limb of their fellow countrymen and countrywomen? 

Is our inherent moral compass (if it can be assumed that we have one) so voided by the “way things are” that we are incapable of being reasonable and empathetic human beings the moment we get behind the wheel of a vehicle? 

More by design than by accident

The incessant repetition, coupled with our inability to learn, would suggest that is exactly the way we are. And that, when it comes down to it, this is no accident, but a habit, and an inhumane one at that. 

This road to traffic hell is paved with one bad decision after another (yes, these are decisions, implemented through choice) and, collectively, it has come into being not by accident, but by design. It is a monster conceived through apathy and a veritable lack of conscience. 

By pretending that each of these are mistakes, and not an inevitable eventuality of our behaviour, we have established a code of misconduct that is rooted so deep within our psyche that, one fears, there may be no going back. What would be a mistake, however, is to not consider our traffic mannerisms, which treats life as insignificant, as being representative of our wider self. To not consider this impunity as being ingrained into our character; that it is only through harsh and brutal force that we can be forced to act like human beings. 

But this mistake, too, we have made repeatedly, satisfied with our satellite and moderately fast internet and an inconsistent cricket team. This excuse, too, is no longer a mistake, but a habit. 

“Did you see the Facebook post,” we’ll ask, “about the MP’s son who ran over a pedestrian and killed him?”

“What can you do, bhai?” we’ll say. “This is Bangladesh.” 

SN Rasul is an Editorial Assistant at the Dhaka Tribune.