Reckless driving goes unabated

Shahin Akhter | Published: 00:00, Aug 31,2019 | Updated: 15:47, Aug 31,2019


Buses on Dhaka-Chattogram highway pick up passengers from the middle of the road near Shanir Akhra, obstructing traffic flow and defying regulations. — Sony Ramany

Chaos on roads across the country continues to claim lives and maim people on a daily basis as government efforts to check reckless driving and bring discipline in the road transport sector appear futile.

Reckless driving by unskilled and untrained drivers of public transports continues in defiance of road safety directives given by the prime minister, the High Court and existing laws and following countrywide student protests demanding road safety in 2018.

Following a series of programmes by the law enforcing agencies, including countrywide and Dhaka-based traffic quarters, things have remained more or less the same. 

Road safety experts and rights activists said that the disorder on roads would continue if the transport workers were not brought under a regular salary structure, standard working hours and appointment systems.

A government officer lost one of her legs after a bus of Trust Transport Services, a concern of Army Welfare Trust, hit her on a footpath at Banglamotor in the capital on Tuesday.

The bus was driven by a hired driver instead of the driver the company appointed, said police officials.

In the capital, city service buses frequently compete with each other. Even the same company buses are seen overtaking one another with the goal to pick up passengers from the next stop, which cause many accidents.

Erratic stoppage continues in the city as buses halt anywhere and everywhere en route to their destinations to take or let passengers get off. Buses ply the road without stopping at bus stoppages and the bus-bays, though small in number, are also rarely used. 

Besides, a major portion of the bus drivers do not have proper licence for driving. While some carry fake licence, there are those who have no licence at all, said experts. 

This year during the holidays of the two Eid festivals, a huge number of people died in traffic accidents on highways.

Reckless driving, especially after the Eid holidays, was mainly blamed for such turmoil. Different rights organisations blamed lack of adequate role by the law-enforcers and other relevant authorities for the fatal accidents during the national holidays.

Professor Mizanur Rahman, director of Accident Research Institute of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, told New Age Friday that as per Bangladesh Police’s first information report, around 98 per cent fatal road accidents  were caused by reckless driving.

‘As per our observation on highways more than 50 per cent accidents were caused by speedy driving while in Dhaka city, in more than half of the accidents pedestrians died after being hit by vehicles,’ he added. 

Last year in July 29, two Shaheed Ramiz Uddin Cantonment College students were killed in an accident when the driver lost control of his speedy bus at Kurmitola in Dhaka, which erupted in the countrywide student protests.

In the same year, Government Titumir College student Rajib Hossain died on April 17 after his right forearm was severed when a bus, while trying to overtake, brushed against another bus on which he was travelling in the capital on April 3.

Following these frequent accidents prime minister Sheikh Hasina on June 25, 2018, gave directives to ensure drivers’ rest every five hours, alternative drivers for long-distance transports, training for drives and their assistants, use of seatbelts while travelling and going by traffic signals, though almost none of these are followed.

Bangladesh Road Transport Authority statistics, compiled based on FIR only, show that in the first four months of this year, 427 people were killed and 658 were injured in 848 accidents in the country. 

According to BRTA, till July this year the number of total registered motor vehicles was around 41 lakh against which around 32.82 lakh driving licences had been issued till that time. 

A report prepared by the Passengers’ Welfare Association of Bangladesh shows that during Eid-ul-Fitr this year, 273 people were killed and 849 others injured in 232 road accidents.

At least 224 people were killed and 866 injured in 203 road accidents across the country during the Eid-ul-Azha holidays this year, showed another PWAB report.

Professor Mizanur Rahman said that in the capital the bus owners engage the transport workers on a contractual basis and accordingly drivers get paid based on the number trips made throughout the day.

‘In Dhaka, there are around 300 routes while most of them overlapped. The result is steep competition for taking passengers. So the situation will continue,’ he said.

The professor said that following Eid holydays, when people were Dhaka-bound, bus drivers drove recklessly on highways as they did not face much congestion which  caused accidents.

PWAB secretary general Md Mozammel Haque Chowdhury said that the chaotic situation on roads could not be curbed until all drivers were recruited on a monthly appointment basis with a regular salary and a standard working hour.

He also alleged that due to increasing rate of extortion on roads the transport workers also compete with each other to get as much passengers as they could take.

A company-based bus system, controlled by the government and owned by the private business people, could bring order in the entire road transport sector, Mozammel added.

BRTA chairman Md Moshiar Rahman told New Age on Thursday that they were taking regular legal action by conducting mobile courts against drivers who drove vehicles recklessly.

Clockwise from top left, a traffic police leaps over a fence attached to a road divider at Shanirakhra; a motorcyclist carries with him passengers without helmets at Matuail; and people hop on road dividers at Matuail and Rayerbagh avoiding footbridges overhead in Dhaka on Friday.          — Sony Ramany 

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