New laws and acts can only do so much to make our roads safer
In order to bring more discipline on our roads and highways, an official gazette was announced on October 22, that the Road Transport Act 2018 will come into force from November 1 of this year.
Road Transport Act 2018 is basically a modified version of Motor Vehicle Ordinance 1983. The offenses mentioned in the two laws are literally the same, rather the penalty has been augmented in the new law. The general goal of enforcing this law is to warn people and drivers by entertaining more punishments than before, lest people should break the rules.
From the very beginning, several questions and queries have been triggered by this new law as to whether it’s beneficial or detrimental to Bangladesh as it stands today.
A lot of debates are going on between drivers, road transport owners associations, and others concerned.
The drivers are claiming this law is favourable to bus owners because there is no punishment enumerated in the new law for owners who provide unlicensed vehicles. Again, the bus owners are saying, at the end, all the complaints and fines need to be functioned by the owners, not the drivers. So, there are conflicting views.
When a new law is enacted, the first and foremost task is to let people know about the new law through campaigning, allotting leaflets, etc. Unfortunately, the publicity by BRTA and administrative bodies is not sufficient.
In a metropolitan area, 25% of all roads are considered to be mandatory scale, whereas Bangladesh only has just above 8%.
Aside from this little portion of roads, there are lots of narrow roads which have only one lane each and on the opposite side of the road. Those roads are no way near to applying the new law.
Most of the main roads and narrower roads hardly have parking zone.
Without an alternative, most people ultimately park their vehicles on roads, which creates traffic congestion.
According to Road Transport Act 2018, for illegal parking, a person can be fined up to a maximum of Tk5,000.
The question is: If there is no space for legal parking, how can any parking be considered illegal?
The fees chalked out in the Road Transport Act 2018 are clearly not agreeable with the drivers and supervisors.
The new laws say a driver can be fined up to a maximum Tk10,000 for violating traffic signals. Will the local bus drivers really be really able afford that huge amount of money?
Our traffic system is less “system” and more chaos because of these transport associations.
Due to the undue pressure they are constantly under, a bus driver needs to drive over 15 hours -- and sometimes even more -- whereas the maximum limit is eight hours a day. They are indirectly forcing these drivers to violate laws.
The BRTA provides licenses to drivers, they are also supposed to check the fitness of vehicles.
And just like most of our bureaucracy, they are not above corruption, which results in a sea of drivers with illegal licenses driving unfit vehicles all over the country.
We need at least three or more years for the Road Transport Act to be fully implemented, because Bangladesh doesn’t have appropriate parking slots, designed zebra crossings, sufficient foot-over bridges, flyovers, bus stoppages, and so on.
Simply sanctioning mere laws is not enough, we need sophisticated systems to back them up.
Nadim Zawad Akil is a freelance contributor.