AT LEAST 23 people are reported to have died and more than 100 people wounded in 17 road accidents during the holidays of Eid-ul-Adha, in August 21–23, across the country. In addition, in the latest reported accident of Saturday, at least 13 people, including two children and six women, died as a bus collided with a modified utility vehicle on the Rajshahi–Pabna Highway near Natore. The number of death increases during holidays when a large number of people rush out and in the capital Dhaka. Even during the holidays of Eid-ul-Fitr, in June 15–17, at least 41 are reported to have died in road accidents. The accident that took place in Natore killing at least 13 people is a reminder to the accident that took place on the Bogra-Rangpur Highway in Gaibandha at the time of Eid-ul-Fitr on June 23, in which 18 people died and 28 others became wounded. On June 23, at least 28 people died in road accidents in 12 districts although the Passenger Welfare Association put the figure of death at 51 in 16 accidents across the country that day.
All this clearly suggests that the moves that the government claims to have taken to stop accidents on roads and highways have failed, especially at Eid time. An investigation instituted after the Gaibandha accident showed that the driver of the bus dozed off on the wheel because of exertion from overwork and the driver was not properly licensed. In the case of the accidents that took place around Eid-ul-Adha, an investigation has already been set up. Although the report is yet to come, a number of traffic rules are reported to have been violated in the case of Natore accident. The major among them is the movement of slow-moving vehicles running on highways, adding to the chance for collision with fast-moving vehicles. The government was to ensure that slow-moving vehicles are taken off the highways. Beside, eye-witness account says that the driver in the Natore case was underaged. And the Highway Police said that none of the bus and the utility vehicle involved in the accident had fitness certificates. The institution of investigation committees after accidents had become a routine affair but what the government needs to do is to act on the recommendations that such investigation committee come up with. The situation as a whole also betrays an aberration of a kind of the government from the promises it made in the wake of road safety protests by school and college students that it would properly attend to the issue of road administration.
All this suggests that the promises that the government made in the wake of road safety protests were meant to defuse the situation and not to ensure road safety. It is time that the government understood that it must rid the road transport sector of corruption and irregularities if it wants to stop the string of death caused by traffic accidents.
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