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Dhaka Tribune

How many more fatalities will it take for the authorities to wake up?

How are we still witnessing so many deaths from road accidents?

Update : 25 Jan 2023, 11:49 PM

According to a press conference of the Bangladesh Passenger Welfare Association, 9,951 people were killed while 12,356 injured in 6,749 road accidents in the country in 2022, which is the highest record compared to the previous years. It was found that road accidents increased by 19.89% and fatalities by 27.43% in 2022 compared to 2021. Following these statistics, 7,000 people die on the roads annually; however, the official numbers claim to be far lower. Even though the number of accidents has increased, the government has not come up with any solutions so far.

On January 22, a private university student named Nadia Sultana was killed when a bus hit her in front of Jamuna Future Park. Based on sources, the bus had hit Nadia's bike from behind and crushed her. BUP student Abrar Ahmed also faced an accident at this exact same location, because of which a foot-over bridge was constructed to cross the road under the initiative of Dhaka North City Corporation. Given the high chances of accidents at this particular spot, how is it not under the constant purview of our traffic cops?

In accordance with research conducted by BUET's Road Accident Research Institute, 54% of those killed in road-highway accidents in the country are between 16 and 40 years of age; while 18.5% of the victims were children under the age of 15. The information published in newspapers show that the annual financial loss due to road accidents is about Tk40,000 crore. If road accidents were prevented, the current growth rate would have increased to at least 9% of the GDP.

But that is clearly not panning out.

The big question is: What initiatives are being taken to prevent this enormous damage? The value of everything is constantly increasing; conversely, the value of a human life is constantly decreasing.

People blame the crisis on road accidents because the number of vehicles in the country -- especially in cities -- is inordinately high, not to mention our growing population. Deaths from road accidents are all but a given in this context. But take a look at Japan -- one of the world's largest car-producing nations -- it has no fewer vehicles than Bangladesh. And yet there are far fewer deaths from road accidents in Japan. The difference lies in the enforcement of rules. In developed countries, everything goes according to rules and regulations -- everyone respects the law, so accidents are fewer.  

On January 9, 2022, the nation witnessed the tragic death of five brothers in a road accident in Cox's Bazar. The pickup van that killed them did not have a license plate, bringing to question the vehicle's fitness. Since such disasterous accidents occur on a near daily basis, especially in this select highway, why aren't these zones being monitored more regularly?

How is it even possible for a vehicle without a license plate to ply our roads and highways for even a day?

Every life taken due to road accidents is a murder, simple as that. It is a criminal offense and should be treated as such. To that end, the administration needs to wake up to this reality and take certain measures. Those involved in the incident should be brought to book as soon as possible, and in the instance of any form of corruption, our traffic police should be held accountable. As long as the number of road accidents are not brought under control, we have no reason to believe that the government is taking this problem with the gravity it deserves.

We need to prop up our public transport in order to reduce the number of vehicles plying our roads, since that is indeed one of the reasons cited. Existing laws should be strictly enforced. It is also necessary to ensure that our traffic police are not only well trained, but that there also be zero tolerance for any semblance of corruption among them. 

There are far too many tangential problems that contribute to the abhorrent numbers of deaths from road accident -- it's a multi-dimensional problem that requires a multi-dimensional approach. But given how the value of a life seems to be going down faster than our currency, there is very little reason to be hopeful.

Apurba Mogumder is a freelance contributor.

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