Road Safety Uprising

Students’ most demands remain unmet

Shahin Akhter | Published: 01:13, Dec 02,2019


Most of the major demands of the students placed during the countrywide student protests that erupted after the death of two Shaheed Ramiz Uddin Cantonment College students in an accident because of reckless driving at Kurmitola in Dhaka in 2018 remained unmet.

Following the student protest, the government enacted the Road Transport Act 2018 in September 2018 year and finally enforced it on November 17 this year.

Countrywide work abstention by transport workers forced the government to backtrack from the enforcement of the law on some major areas such as driving licence, overloading, fitness and modification of vehicles.

As the demands on road safety remains elusive, the fatalities on roads are on rise and the government is forming committees one after another to control accidents and bring order on roads.

Road safety experts alleged the situation on roads was deteriorating day by day. Had the demands of the students were met then, safety on roads would be established by now, they said.

Thousands of students took to the streets for more than a week after their two fellows were killed on July 29, 2018 when a reckless driver drove a Jabal-e-Noor company bus off the road and ploughed through a crowd while competing with another bus of the same company.

Amid an utter anarchy in the road sector for long, the students demanded highest punishment for the bus drivers responsible for the killing of the two, not allowing buses without fitness, driving by any unlicensed driver at any place of the country, and ban on carrying passengers by public transports in excess of their capacity.

They also demanded establishing footbridges and taking safety measures for safe movement of students, establishing speed-breakers in accident-prone areas including in front of educational institutions, taking all responsibilities by the government of the families of the deceased and injured, compelling the buses to carry students and ensuring half fare for them.

A Dhaka court on Sunday sentenced two drivers and an assistant of Jabal-e-Noor Paribahan to life-term imprisonment in the case filed over the incident.

On November 21, after a meeting with transport sector leaders following a countrywide strike, home minister Asaduzzaman Khan said the drivers could drive any vehicle with the existing licence and modified vehicles could run till June 30, 2020 and within this time the drivers would receive appropriate licences and the owners would receive update documents from the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority.

Till date the authorities are in a relaxed mood to enforce the law.

According to a data compiled by Bangladesh Police till September this year 3,060 deaths, and 3,292 injuries, and 3,009 traffic accidents were recorded and the death figure is the highest after 2008.

In 2018, 2,635 people were killed and 1,920 were injured in 2,609 traffic accidents.

The percentage of deaths in accident increased this year by around 16 per cent comparing with last year.

Road accidents took 2,513 lives in 2017, the figure was 2,463 in 2016, 2,376 in 2015, 2,067 in 2014, 1,957 in 2013, 2,538 in 2012, 2,546 in 2011, 2,646 in 2010, 2,958 in 2009, and 3,765 in 2008, the data shows.

The High Court on July 24 this year asked the owners of 4.79 lakh unfit vehicles running across the country to get fitness certificates for the vehicles from the Bangladesh Road Transports Authority within two months.

On October 23 the authority submitted a report before the High Court which said only 89,269 vehicles’ owners have collected fitness certificates in August and September following the court directive.

As per the authority, the number of registered motor vehicles in the country was around 41 lakh till July this year against which around 23 lakh driving licences were issued. It proved a huge crisis of drivers especially for driving public transports.

Recently the authorities have taken an initiative to build an underpass in front of Shaheed Ramijuddin College for safe movement of pedestrians.

Professor Mizanur Rahman, director of Accident Research Institute under the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, told New Age that following the student protest, the government passed the new road law which was yet to be enforced fully.

He said the authorities should control the sick competition among the owners of the buses and reduce gap between supply and demand sides for public transports.

‘If all their demands would be met then safety on roads would be assured,’ he added.

Professor Shamsul Hoque, former director of Accident Research Institute, said the situation on roads was deteriorating day by day.

He said the students pointed at the faults in the overall system and strongly hit the base of the society’s morality.

However, the government should go for step by step solutions based on facts and findings to ensure safety on roads, he added. 

Meanwhile prime minister Sheikh Hasina on June 25, 2018 gave directives to ensure drivers’ rest every five hours, to employ alternate drivers for long-distance vehicles, training and resting facilities for drivers and their assistants, use of seatbelts while travelling, and abiding by the traffic signals.

Most of these demands and directives still remain on paper due to crisis of drivers, training facilities and infrastructures like zebra crossings.

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