THE government’s failure to put in place a regular and uniform system for the drug testing of drivers keeping to a High Court order of June 2019 leaves an important protocol of driving unattended, which adds to the risk of road accidents. The court that time gave the authorities six months to do the job. But more than a year later now, there has been no sign of drug testing for drivers. The Bangladesh Road Transport Authority has not put in place any system for drug tests while the Dhaka Metropolitan Police does not conduct the test regularly. Road transport owners, who decided to arrange for drug testing for drivers, backtracked on their decision in December 2019, fearing a further turbulent situation as transport workers had then been on strike against the implementation of the Road Transport Act 2018, set in force in a lax manner though on November 1. The tests that the Road Transport Authority conducts for professional drivers do not include drug abuse test.
The Road Transport Authority seeks to say that it sent a letter to the Narcotics Control Department to help the agency with kits and experts when the authority would go for testing drives but there has as yet been no progress in the issue. The Dhaka Metropolitan Police too admits that it does not have adequate kits and expertise for drug testing of drivers on the road. It has some machines for checking exhaled breath drug testing, which the agency uses occasionally. But such testing, even if conducted regularly, is unlikely to give adequate results as the test does not detect most of the drugs that are commonly used by drivers. All this portrays an unacceptable non-compliance with an important court directive. The prime minister, addressing a discussion marking National Road Safety Day 2020 on Thursday, too asked the authorities concerned to bring the drivers under a drug testing system. Drug testing is needed to minimise the chance for accidents as drivers need to have a sound reflex system to drive vehicles. The issue becomes pressing in view of the admission of the Dhaka Road Transport Owners’ Association general secretary that at least 40–50 per cent of the drivers in the capital city and on the highways are drug addicts.
It has already been 15 months since the court ordered the government to arrange for the drug testing of drivers, aimed at shoring up road safety issues. Nothing but promises and assurances, with consequent failures, have so far been forthcoming. It is high time the government attended to the issue earnestly.