Deaths from road accidents have been on the rise lately, but we can work towards solutions
There has been a string of road accident-related deaths in our country as of late.
Road accidents are nothing new, but each and every country has its own policies and mechanisms to address the issue. In such countries, the public are also led to behave in a way that avoids accidents or at least ensures that road accidents are kept to a minimum.
Recently, we observed a fatal accident in Dhaka which claimed the lives of two young students and sent a few to hospitals in grave conditions.
My heartfelt condolences to all the families that have lost their children.
I can imagine their grief being intolerable.
What I’m trying to get at is that we need to find a solution to this issue soon. We need to bring back the rule of law.
The sheer frequency of senseless road accidents points to rule of law not being honoured. But the government is hardly the only side to be blamed, of course, as the onus also lies on the people.
This is a systemic issue. For example, pedestrians loitering on roads and standing almost in the middle of traffic is dangerous for anyone on the streets.
Then there is the race to hail a bus in the middle of the road, where people risk life and limb to be able to catch these vehicular monstrosities.
These are not insurmountable problems, but they do require some amount of focus and strategy on the part of the administration. A few recommendations would be:
1. The introduction of regular driver awareness sessions by the government and related private bodies
2. Dividers need to be closed down in places where traffic can move faster (everyone needs to use the overpasses and underpasses)
3. Pedestrians need to be fined, and perhaps even detained for at least 12 hours to 2 days, for crossing roads indiscriminately
4. Rule of law must be ensured
5. Sensitize more police to be hospitable on the road
6. Introduce more public transport and discourage the use of private cars
7. Decentralize national administrative operations (this will result in fewer people in already overcrowded cities)
8. Encourage more telecommuting and working from home through internet-based technologies (although this will impact only to about 2-4% of the population but still thousands of vehicles will not need to move part of the day as a result of smart organizational planning)
9. Waterways and water shuttles around Dhaka periphery must be improved
10. Elevated expressways, a monorail, or a subway system need to be developed extensively
11. Small shuttle train services (feeders) must be introduced -- in Dhaka especially
12. Increase road coverage areas, clean up footpaths so people do not need to walk on the streets inviting more accidents
13. Car fitness standards must be maintained and monitored and the appropriate fines and punitive actions must be taken against motorists who do not abide by the standards
14. Introduce road safety awareness and effective driver awareness campaigns
The task of maintaining safe roads is not of the government’s alone, it is everyone’s. Everyone travels on the road, rich or poor, old or young. If the entire country starts a campaign for roadway safety, the ensuing discussion will pave the way for safer roads.
We need to hold seminars and discussions at the policy level, and politicians need to do more in speaking on these matters in greater detail in their own constituencies.
The government can also invite civil society members, academics, functional specialists, and others to immediately begin the process so as to reduce the accident rates and the subsequent carnage on the streets as soon as possible.
The public don’t want to see road accident statistics shoot up higher than they already are.
Ziaur Rahman is CEO, IITM.