MOST of the major demands placed by the students during the countrywide movement for safe roads that erupted following the death of two college students in an accident because of reckless driving remaining unmet come to be worrying. Despite positive assurances from the government and its agencies concerned, the passing of the Road Transport Act 2018 in September 2018 and enforcing of it in November this year, road safety remains still elusive. The students demanded the highest punishment for the bus drivers responsible for the death of the students, setting up footbridges, measures for safe movement of students and speed-breakers in accident-prone areas. They also demanded the removal of vehicles without fitness from the road, and put an end to unlicensed driving and adherence to other traffic protocol issues. But for lack of stringent enforcement of law, road safety experts say, most of the traffic-related directives and most of the demands by the students have remained unheeded resulting in an increase in road accidents. The traffic situation has, in fact, deteriorated over the year and that the number of fatal accidents has only but increased — deaths in accidents this year have already been recorded to be the highest in the last ten years with an alarming 16 per cent increase compared with last year.
It also appears that the authorities, met with countrywide work abstention by transport workers, are backtracking from strict enforcement of the Road Transport Act 2018. The home affairs minister’s saying, after a meeting with transport sector leaders on November 21, that 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 updated documents from the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority, suggests a relaxed approach. Moreover, the High Court directive, given on July 24, to owners of 4.79 lakh unfit vehicles running across the country to get fitness certificates for the vehicles has not been complied with as only 89,269 vehicles’ owners collected fitness certificates in August and September. The issue of unskilled drivers — the number of registered motor vehicles in the country is about 41 lakh while about 23 lakh driving licences have so far been issued —still remains unattended to. The prime minister’s heartening directives to ensure drivers’ rest every five hours, to employ alternate drivers for long-distance vehicles, and others have also been unimplemented.
While fatalities on roads are on the rise — with already 3,060 deaths and 3,292 injuries till September this year — it is high time the government understood that what is needed now are actions on the recommendations made by different committees and proper implementation of the law. The government must frame the much needed rules and regulations for the implementation of the new road transport law and to stringently enforce it.
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