Roads in Chittagong district that connect the port city, three hill districts and tourist destination Cox’s Bazar to the rest of the country act as a perilous death trap, having claimed at least 420 lives during the past 11 months alone.
A total of 1,979 people were injured during the period as a study reports. The numbers were collected by the Passenger Welfare Association of Bangladesh, which monitored newspaper reports to add up the total casualty toll.
Poor traffic management and unawareness among commuters were some of the key factors behind the high casualty numbers, the organisation claimed.
Mojammel Haque Chowdhury, secretary general of Passenger Welfare Association of Bangladesh, also blamed illegal roadside establishments and reckless driving of small vehicles on highways as other major causes behind frequent road accidents.
According to the report, 40 persons were killed and 134 were injured in January, 13 killed and 66 injured in February, 19 killed and 142 injured in March, 41 killed and 109 injured in April, 39 killed and 158 injured in May, 31 killed and 194 injured in June and 35 killed and 207 injured in July, 58 killed and 219 injured in August, 52 killed and 316 injured in September, 54 died and 289 injured in October and 38 killed and 145 injured in November.
The study said among those who were killed or injured, at least 154 were pedestrians, 125 children, 217 women, 8 doctors, 25 teachers, 55 of different political identities, 92 students, 143 drivers and transport workers, 30 cops and 15 people belonged to the Army or the BGB.
The report showed that the highest number of accidents took place on the Dhaka-Chittagong highway in Sitakunda upazila, while Chandanaish, Patiya, Lohagara and Chowkoria on the Chittagong–Cox’s Bazar highway were identified as the most vulnerable areas in the district.
On the Dhaka-Chittagong highway, most accidents involved trucks and covered vans; while on the Chittagong-Cox’s Bazar Highway, accidents are frequently caused by microbuses, easy bikes, Nasimans, Karimans, auto-rickshaws, battery-run rickshaws and other slow moving vehicles, the report read.
Asked about the high number of accidents in the district, Assistant Superintendent of Highway Police (Chittagong Zone), Golam Mohammed, told the Dhaka Tribune that inexperienced drivers and high-speed traffic on the highway were the major causes of road accidents on the road.
“In most cases, the affected vehicles’ drivers do not have driving licence,” he said, adding that the highway police was unable to supervise the entire road because of manpower shortage.
Claiming there was no mismanagement in the traffic system, ASP Golam said more units of highway police and better traffic-related tools and equipment were needed to check road accidents.
Asked about the issue, Bangladesh Sarak Paribahan Malik Samiti’s Executive President Kafil Uddin Ahmed said the width or the quality of the roads were not upgraded compared to the pace of the rising number of trucks and other vehicles.
The traffic management system should also be updated along with modernised traffic equipments to help bring down the number of road accidents, he recommended.