Road Transport Act 2018

Promises and challenges

Hussain Imam | Published: 00:00, Nov 19,2019 | Updated: 01:06, Nov 19,2019

 
 

— New Age photo

Nearly 55 people on an average, according to a recent study, die in road accidents every day in Bangladesh. This is indeed a very alarming figure to reckon with. It cannot go on unchecked. There are many reasons for road accidents. Unfit vehicles, unauthorised or fake driving license, defective roads, reckless driving are some of them worth mentioning. Whatever may be the reasons, casualty of such unbelievable magnitude due to road accidents is not acceptable. It must be drastically reduced, if not totally eliminated.

The whole transport sector of the country is in chaos. The road transport sector is the worse. It is time some drastic measures were taken to ensure people’s safety on road. The parliament passed an act in September 2018 named Road Transport Act 2018 replacing Motor Vehicle Ordinance 1983 in order to bring discipline in the sector.

Enforcement of the law had to be delayed for more than a year in order to frame rules and regulations of the new law. Finally, the law came into force with effect on November 17 although there is still a number of issues to be addressed before full implementation of the law.

Road transport and bridges minister has now to say that the new law is already in force but he has asked the law enforcement agencies to go lenient until people become fully aware of the new law. He is right. People need to be fully aware of the new law. The earlier the people get conversant with the new rules and regulations, the better it will be for their own safety.

The safety rules and regulations under the newly enacted Road Transport Act 2018 keeping provisions for much higher fines and punishment including imprisonment have received mixed reactions from different quarters. While they do not deny the necessity of stringent laws to ensure safety on the roads, many of them consider these rules too harsh, in some cases disproportionate, to accept without reservation. The hefty amount of fines ranging from minimum Tk 5,000 to Tk 25,000 plus or imprisonment for violation of traffic rules or both are viewed by many to be incompatible with the defaulter’s capacity to pay if the overall per capita income of the country is taken into consideration.

When somebody in talk show tries to justify the hike citing example of Singaporeans having to pay a fine as high as S$500 for similar offence, he forgets to mention that per capita income of Singapore is much higher than that of Bangladesh. The laws got to be rational and practicable.

Some think that provisions for punishment as harsh as envisaged in the new law may lead to steep rise in corruption which is already rampant in the transport sector. Such apprehensions cannot be totally ruled out. As per the new law, a vehicle driver has to pay a fine of Tk 5,000 for wrong parking. The operator can justifiably ask where he is going to park his vehicle. Are their enough parking facilities in the cities’ shopping malls or markets? The answer is a big no. Road transport authorities got to find an answer to this question before going for full implementation of the law.

Having discussed all the positive and negative aspects of the new rules and regulations related to road safety, we must admit that stringent law was necessary to deter what was happening in the road transport sector. We must welcome the initiative taken by the government in this respect. How can a civilised society keep their eyes closed to death of so many people on the streets from road accidents mostly for no fault of theirs? What may be required is amendment of some of the rules in the light of comments and views put forward from different quarters.

The traffic signal system of Dhaka, with a population of more than 16 million, is reported to have been introduced by foreign experts. It is believed to be a very sophisticated one. The system is not in function in most of the city areas. The traffic constables are still controlling the traffic flow by raising arms or using sticks at many places. The traffic management of the city, nay all the big cities of the country, is poor, to put it politely.

It is high time the authorities concerned took a serious look into the whole affair in its true perspective and ensured safety of passengers.

 

Hussain Imam is a retired merchant navy officer.

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