Road safety: When will the government directives be implemented?

With the Eid holidays coming up, higher chances of highway accidents remain a cause for concern

Despite clear instructions from the government, there has been little progress in curbing road accidents and ensuring safe travelling in Bangladesh, as the instructions have been largely ignored by the bus operators.

However, bus operators say they cannot implement the instructions unless the government initiate and aid the work.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, during a cabinet meeting on June 25, 2018, issued a set of directives to ensure safety on the roads and reinforce traffic discipline across the country, in order to reduce the number of accidents.

Her directives include proper work hours for long-haul drivers, mandatory training for drivers and assistants in public transport services, service centres and resting rooms at regular intervals on the highways, and strict monitoring to ensure that everyone follows traffic rules.

Stakeholders in road transport sector said they had yet to begin work in this regard, as they are trying to initiate a project under public-private partnership (PPP) to implement said directives.

The Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) and the Roads and Highways Department (RHD) under the Ministry of Road Transport and Bridges are jointly working on this initiative, sources told Dhaka Tribune.

According to Bangladesh Jatri Kallyan Samity (Bangladesh Passengers’ Welfare Association), at least 7,221 people were killed and 15,466 injured in 5,514 road accidents reported across Bangladesh in 2018.

Between January and April this year, at least 1,552 people have been killed and 3,039 others injured in 1,495 road accidents in the country, says the data collected by the National Committee to Protect Shipping, Roads and Railways (NCPSRR).

Following the government directives, there were some major events of accidents that fuelled nationwide outrage and protests demanding road safety.

The incident that garnered attention worldwide was a week-long protest, spearheaded mostly by school, college and university students, which spread across Bangladesh after two college students were killed by a bus trying to recklessly overtake another bus on Dhaka’s Airport Road on July 29, 2018.

Even though the directives are mostly aimed at improving the drivers’ capacity for safe driving, transport owners say they cannot implement the directives without the government’s PPP project.

Speaking to Dhaka Tribune, some bus operators said full implementation of the directives may take a long time.

Bangladesh sees at least 3,000 incidents of road accidents every year on average, which kill around 2,700 people and injure about 2,400, according to data provided by the Accident Research Institute (ARI) of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (Buet), based on police records.

The estimated losses from these accidents amount to Tk40,000 crore a year on average, which is about 2-3% of the country’s GDP.

The number of accidents and casualties typically increase around Eid holidays, as highway traffic increases due to homeward-bound rush.

Most accidents in Bangladesh are caused by reckless driving, oftentimes as a result of drivers trying to race other buses, said several stakeholders.

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