VIOLATION of traffic rules on Dhaka roads has seen a worrying rise since the government allowed the public transports to go back to normal services after the general holiday to contain the COVID-19 outbreak. Reckless driving, competitions, illegal parking and movement of illegal vehicles, such as the battery-powered rickshaws that began running on the city roads during the general holiday in March 26–May 31, are reported to have increased substantially giving rise to fatal accidents. Public transport owners and drivers, as road safety experts say, appear to have become desperate to make up for the losses they incurred during the general holiday and during the period of restriction on the number of passengers. The on-going metro rail projects and road digging in different areas in the capital have also worsened the traffic situation. According to the Passenger Welfare Association of Bangladesh, at least 459 people were killed and 618 injured in 388 road accidents across the country in August only. The government’s failures to fully implement, as experts say, the Road Transport Act 2018 and to execute plans for city service bus route franchise have caused such a chaos on Dhaka roads.
The government has not been able to fully implement the Road Transport Act 2018, even two years after its enactment. The authority concerned has not even been able to work out the rules that are required for the full implementation of the law, which was enacted in October 2018, prompted by the death of two college students in a road accident in July that year. The government took 13 more months, apparently because of protests by transport owners and workers, to begin partially enforcing the law in November 2019. It appears that the government has made much too concession to the demands of transport owners and workers leaving the road regime in chaos. As for the bus route franchise in the capital, the government has not been able to work out and execute the plan in over two decades. The government took up the plan under the Dhaka Urban Transport Project in 1997 to introduce bus route franchise — to take all public transports running in the city under the fold of six companies —to discipline city bus services. The plan, if executed, would end competition that transport companies and bus drivers dangerously engage in to pick up as many passengers as possible and make as many trips as possible.
Because of a lack of initiatives and implementation of a number of proposed plans, Dhaka roads have turned into a death trap. The government and the authorities concerned must realise that half-hearted efforts and unrealised plans would not help to improve the situation. An early and full implementation of the Road Transport Act 2018 can help to improve the road regime across the country while the introduction of bus route franchise in Dhaka can save the city’s road regime.
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