Highway accidents rampant as laws, directives ignored in Bangladesh

Shahin Akhter | Published: 23:00, Jan 24,2021 | Updated: 23:35, Jan 24,2021


Frequent fatal accidents on the country’s national highways continue to take place following gross violation of existing laws and different directives given by the prime minister, ministries concerned and even the High Court.

Road safety experts blamed mostly the movement of unregistered vehicles, including three-wheelers, the absence of service lanes and highway side infrastructures and kitchen markets, for the accidents. 

The lack of institutional capacity and accountability and enforcement of laws and regulations by the authorities concerned were also blamed for the situation.

Prime minister Sheikh Hasina on June 25, 2018 gave directives to ensure drivers’ rest every five hours, alternative drivers for long distance transports and use of seatbelts while travelling.

The High Court on August 3, 2015 issued a directive to the road transport ministry and the police issued to keep unfit motor vehicles off the roads across the country.

Since August 1, 2015, road transport and bridges ministry imposed a ban on three-wheelers and non-motorised vehicles on different national highways.

Lastly on April 28, 2019, the committee headed by former shipping minister Shajahan Khan submitted 111 recommendations to the prime minister with a view to bringing back order on roads and reduce the number of accidents across the country.

Some of these recommendations related to the national highways include: removal of highway side kitchen markets, infrastructures and shops, introduction of service roads and grade separation for slow-moving vehicles, setting up of bus stoppages and bay areas and passenger shades, setting speed limit in the accident-prone areas, keeping the connection points between national highways and feeder roads in check, ensuring regular inspections of black spots on national highways and safety measures to reduce accidents, building trauma centres and fire service stations at strategic places and ensuring BRTC bus and truck services at short distances to facilitate local passengers. 

These directives had already been mentioned in the then Motor Vehicles Ordinance, 1983 and in the Road Transport Act, 2018, Bangladesh Labour Act, 2009 and traffic laws.

The removal of unfit vehicles from roads, using alternative drivers, allocating rest rooms for drivers, ensuring the use of seatbelts, introducing service lanes and keeping an eye on feeder roads to keep anomalies in check are yet to be implemented.

Reports of New Age correspondents from different districts showed rampant violation of these directives.

On Monday at Rajfulbaria and Rajabari areas on Dhaka-Aricha national highway different three- and four-wheeler vehicles were seen running.

Rickshaws were seen parked on the Nabinagar bus stand intersection while the highway did not have any service lane.

New Age correspondent in Mymensingh reported that the movement of unregistered vehicles was increasing in the district and causing fatal accidents regularly.

Mymensingh traffic police inspector Syed Mahbubur Rahman said that even after a series of awareness programmes three-wheelers are plying on the highway.

New Age correspondent in Sylhet reported that the movement of three-wheelers and other unfit vehicles on the highways in Sylhet zone still continue.

Sylhet highway zone police superintendent Shahid Ullah said that CNG-run auto-rickshaws were responsible for most of the casualties on highways while more than 800 auto-rickshaws were sued in the last month alone.

CNG-run Auto-Rickshaw Drivers Association’ Sylhet divisional unit president Mohammed Zakaria told New Age that the movement of auto-rickshaws on highways remains a huge risk before the introduction of service lanes.

From Tangail New Age correspondent reported that unregistered vehicles regularly crossed the Dhaka-Tangail highway due to the absence of service lane at Gorai, Pakulla, Korotia, Ashakpur and Rabna points and between Elenga bus stand and Ibrahimbad.

Professor Shamsul Hoque, former director of Accident Research Institute under Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, alleged that the institutions concerned did not have the capacity and they lacked coordination to check these violations of directives and laws.

He said that accountability of the authorities concerned and political ownership would ensure some major solutions to the problems.

Road Safety Foundation executive director Saidur Rahman observed that all of these directives remained neglected. 

Strict implementation of the existing laws could ensure order on highways and prevent accidents, he added.

At least 5,431 people were killed and 7,379 injured in 4,735 road accidents in the country in 2020, said a report published by the Road Safety Foundation.

The report also shows that 38.24 per cent of all accidents occurred on national highways.

According to Nirapad Sarak Chai, in 2020, most of the road accidents occurred on highways while a major reason behind these was the movement of slow-moving vehicles on highways.

A report of the Bangladesh Passenger Welfare Association showed that in 2020 around 28 per cent road accidents involved three-wheelers, battery-run and unregistered vehicles locally known as nasimon and karimon.

Bangladesh Road Transport Authority chairman Nur Mohammad Mazumder told New Age on Thursday that close monitoring of all authorities concerned and creating alternative transports and service lanes for slow-moving vehicles on highways were necessary to implement the directives.

They had no authentic statistics on the unregistered vehicles, he said, adding that they were trying to make people aware about the directives.

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