THE road transport and bridges ministry’s extending the deadline for the relaxation of rules for the second time, as New Age reported on Saturday, in driving licence issuance comes with worries. The Bangladesh Road Transport Authority on August 28, 2018 relaxed the rules for driving licence issuance in that drivers with licences for light vehicles with one-year experience could apply for licences for medium vehicles and drivers with licences for medium-vehicles with one-year experience could apply for licences for heavy vehicles. The experience requirement for both the cases earlier was three years. The authorities then extended the deadline from December 31, 2018 to this June keeping to a request of the Bangladesh Road Transport Workers’ Federation. The government has now extended the deadline further till this December, which raises concern as the relaxation of rules would allow drivers with less experience to drive medium and heavy vehicles, which adds to risks of traffic accidents. When the issues of road safety come up in conversations, the government takes steps to ease traffic congestion and the court orders steps for the government to make roads safe, such a decision of the ministry, which appears to be negating the other good steps that have already been around the corner, is likely to further jeopardise road safety.
The Dhaka Transport Coordination Authority on June 20 set up a committee, headed by Dhaka’s south mayor with Dhaka’s north mayor, the city police commissioner and representatives from the Road Transport Authority, in addition to other stakeholders, as members, to ease traffic congestion in the capital Dhaka in two months by drawing up and implementing short-, medium- and long-run strategies. The High Court Division, meanwhile on June 21, ordered the authorities to assess the eyesight of drivers, at the time of licensing and regularly while they are in service, and arrange for drug testing aimed at stopping impaired driving in six months. The two important protocols which the government should have put in place long ago and the drivers needed to adhered to have so far been ignored. The court also gave a few more directives, including the enforcement of the Road Transport Act 2018, for the authorities concerned to stop indiscipline on the road and check against traffic accidents that are believed primarily to have happened because of reckless driving. Official records show that the number of road accidents has increased in 2018, with 2,609 killing 2,635 people, than in 2017, with 2,562 accidents killing 2,513 people. Unofficial estimates, however, come up with a much higher figure. In view of all this, the ministry’s further extension of the deadline for the relaxation of the rule in driving licence issuances certainly comes with added worries about the risk of traffic accidents.
Road Transport Authority statistics, as of February, show about 3.9 million motor vehicles being registered that are run by about two million drivers with valid licences. In a situation like this, the government needs to arrange for more drivers and there could be training programmes and other ways to do the task, but not by letting drivers with less than required experiences to run vehicles on the road at the cost of life and property. The government must tread back on the leniency that it has so far showed.
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