THE recommendations that the National Road Safety Council — which was set up in 1995 under the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority to work with 24 government agencies to take police-level, safety-related decisions, work out action plans and give directives to road safety-related stakeholders and monitor them so that traffic accidents could be prevented — coming to have been ignored for years on end is disappointing while the number of road accidents, especially fatal, keep taking place across the country. In 2011, a committee that the council set up submitted 52 short-term recommendations on road safety such as the appointment letter and fixed work hour for transport workers, no lease-out of public transports, awareness of traffic rules and regulations, strict adherence to rules in driver’s licence and fitness certificate procedures, driver’s education and strict implementation of traffic rules. But the government has been reluctant at implementing the recommendations, which betrays a general apathy of the government to road safety issues. And such unwillingness has only added to the scope for such fatal accidents to recur, to the endangerment of passengers and passers-by. A student, a few days, ago died after he had lost his forearm on April 3 as two buses, in a mindless competition, brushed each other in the capital.
The list of such accidents is not very short. A transport worker lost his arm in an accident involving a truck and a bus in Golapganj. The Passenger Welfare Association of Bangladesh comes up with the figure of 1,841 people left dead while 5,477 were left injured in 1,779 accidents across the country this year until April 20. The association has found that 87 per cent of public transports in the capital flout traffic rules and regulations. The High Court on April 4 directed the government to explain its inaction about ensuring the safety of passengers by controlling reckless driving but no visible movement on part of the government has as yet been noticed. Researchers, experts and civic groups have for years been talking about the lack of political will on part of the government to make roads safe for people. They have blamed an unholy alliance involving some corrupt government officials and transport operators for movement of unfit vehicles, reckless driving by unskilled drivers, rampant traffic rules violations and culture of impunity for this. The situation has become pervasive even in government agencies. Bangladesh Road Transport Authority statistics show that fitness certificates of 56,410 vehicles, which include 3,740 vehicles that belong to government agencies, have not been renewed for decades.
The government, under the circumstances, must immediately heed the recommendations that the National Road Safety Council has made and start implementing them. The government must also mend its own flaws, by obeying rules and regulations by way of having the fitness certificates of its vehicles renewed and, at the same time, asking its agencies involved in road traffic management to act stringently to stop road accidents.
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