THE appointment of drivers of public transports for monthly fixed wages instead of payment on a daily or trip basis has for long been in conversation but has not as yet been put into practice. The hiring of public transport drivers for payment on a daily or trip basis is said to be at the root of most of the traffic accidents that take place. This is because such a system of hiring often prompts the drivers to try to make as many trips as they can to earn more. The need to make more trips in turn prompts the drivers to speed up, often bordering on a race against fellow drivers on the road, ultimately adding to the risk of traffic accidents. More trips also mean longer work hours and overwork which force the drivers to doze off onto the wheels from exertion as they are hardly inclined to take, or given the scope for, rest. With the recommendation oft repeated in the past not having so far been implemented, the High Court in a welcome move has ordered the appointment of drivers of public transports for fixed monthly wages and a ban on trip-based payment for drivers to stop the menace aimed at reducing the chance for accidents.
The court in its full verdict in the Rajib Hasan compensation case, released on Monday, made 10 directives, including the one on driver appointment. Rajib Hasan died in hospital on April 17, 2018 after he had lost his right forearm, which came to be severed, when two buses, owned by the Road Transport Corporation and Swajan Paribahan, brushed each other during overtaking in the Karwan Bazar crossing in Dhaka on April 3 that year. The short-run directives, requiring an immediate implementation, are no honking of horns near hospitals, educational institutions and in residential areas, keeping bus doors closed, picking up no passengers but at stoppages and checking the eyesight of drivers and drug testing during routine paper examinations. The mid-run directives, required to be implemented in six months, are the appointment of drivers for monthly wages, banning the hiring of drivers on a daily or trip basis, drug and eyesight testing during licence issuance and renewal, the installation of a maximum number of closed-circuit television cameras on major roads, the rationalisation of bus routes and the zonal franchise of bus companies. All the directives, if properly implemented, could contain reckless and unskilled driving to ultimately reduce the number of traffic accidents. Researchers at the Accident Research Institute believe that about 98 per cent of fatal traffic accidents are caused by reckless driving.
Road safety experts also believe that traffic indiscipline, especially caused by public buses, could continue unless transport workers are put under a monthly wage framework, with standard working hours, to dispense with the war for more trips that they often engage themselves in and to attend to their problems not being able to take rest, which often causes exertion, leading to fatal traffic accidents. The government has set up committees one after another to make recommendations and all that the government now must do is to comply with the court order to ensure road safety.