THE number of fatalities in road accidents, as police statistics based on first information reports show, increased in 2018. Road safety experts said that the numbers of both accidents and causalities were likely to be higher than the reported incidents as many incidents, especially involving the injured victim’s death in hospital or afterwards, remain under-reported. The police statistics show that in 2018, there were 2,609 accidents, leaving 2,635 people dead and 1,920 injured while in 2017, 2,513 people died and 1,898 became injured in 2,562 accidents; in 2016, 2,463 people died and 2,134 became injured in 2,566 accidents and in 2015, 2,376 people died and 1,958 became injured in 2,394 accidents. Road safety campaign Nirapad Sarak Chai, which prepares data on road accidents and causalities from the police and media reports, hospitals and families of the victims, shows higher numbers of deaths and injuries — 4,439 people died and 7,425 became injured in 3,103 accidents in 2018.
While the government is desperate to meet one of the targets of the Sustainable Development Goals of halving the number of deaths and injuries in road traffic accidents by 2020, statistics of increasing number of accidents and fatalities on roads are impeding the process. As the Accident Research Institute director said, everyone is concerned as the number of road accidents is gradually increasing. He said that many motorcycle accidents that took place on roads under the Local Government Engineering Department went under-reported as many injured victims died within a month of accidents. The reason the number of victims who died after accidents remained unstated is that the government appears to be under pressure to halve the number of deaths on roads. Most of the fatal accidents took place because of failure by the authorities concerned to check unregistered and unsafe vehicles on roads, lack of training facilities for drivers, run-down road network, political pressure and reckless driving that has a link to the drivers lacking adequate training. One can also recall, in this connection, the lackadaisical government approach to implementing the Road Transport Act 2018 which was passed on September 19, 2018 and no rule has yet been formulated to implement it. Under the circumstances, one has reasons to believe that as the government is not serious about ensuring road safety and has a predilection for protecting the vested interests that have dominated the sector for long, there is no hope for any change in the situation at least in near future.
The government needs to realise that by ensuring road safety, it could save around Tk 40,000 crore a year, or around 2 per cent of the gross domestic product, which is the cost of road traffic accidents. It also needs to come up with the political will required to stop the movement of unsafe vehicles on the road.
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