Casual response to road accidents must stop

Publish: 3:15 PM, August 30, 2018 | Update: 3:15:PM, August 30, 2018

Concern over road safety has reached a fever pitch following the tragic deaths of a couple of young ones who were the victims of reckless killer driving. Understandably, there has been a veritable explosion of public discontent as well as wrath over these very sad incidents. People’s anger over unchecked road accidents deaths have been brewing for a long time. But the present incendiary move have sparked off in the wake of what seemed to be alleged casual or insensitive response to the latest round of road tragedies.
It is no overstatement to say lives of those who commute from one place to another using the roads and highways across the country have now been rendered most vulnerable.
After the loss of 40 lives in 4 days starting from the last Eid vacation, 22 more people were killed and 90 injured in road accidents across the country . Experts attribute these accidents mostly to vehicles without fitness certificates and route permits.
An international survey says Bangladesh ranks second in terms of deaths in road accidents among the countries of Europe, Australia and Asia. The highest number of accidents occurs in Nepal and the lowest in United Kingdom.
According to a data readied by World Health Organization (WHO) with information from police and hospital sources, the figure of people who died in road accidents in Bangladesh in last 10 years numbers over 50,000.
Even in the first six months of this year, 40 people died on an average in the country.
On the other hand, some 313,000 vehicles out of a total of 2,105,140 are operating across the country without fitness certificates, according to even sources in the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) itself. But experts consider this number to be grossly an underestimate.
Also, some 93,600 out of about 800,000 vehicles plying on the roads in Dhaka city are not fitness certified, they said.
BRTA authorities claim that all vehicles must pass at least 30 different tests to get fitness certificates But in reality BRTA officials have been issuing fitness certificates to vehicles without properly following the inspection procedures set by the transport regulatory body. The main conditions for fitness are unchanged original design, proper functioning of brakes and gears, proper functioning of lights, no emission of black smoke and proper paint. But these conditions remain largely unmet even in many cases where the vehicle operators have obtained fitness certificates.
The regional transport committee, headed by the respective deputy commissioner of each district, is in charge of issuing route permits to vehicles that ply on intra-district routes, while the divisional committee, headed by him, is in charge of issuing permits for vehicles plying on inter-district routes.
“For inter-district routes, bus-owners usually have good-conditioned buses and take route permits from the BRTA. But buses plying on intra-district routes are poorly monitored because of lack of law enforcement.
BRTA has decided to outsource vehicle fitness inspection through motor workshops to change the prevailing situation. “We’ve also amended Rule 70 of the Motor Vehicle Ordinance, 1983, and included sub-section 70-A-where it is stated that the licensing and registration of motor workshops should be given by the transport regulator-in accordance with the existing number of vehicles,” according to a BRTA official.
“In other countries, authorised workshops successfully check the fitness of vehicles. If we manage to do the same, there will be fewer vehicles without fitness on the streets,” he said. But a former police chief, on condition of anonymity, observed that none of the initiatives taken by the government will work unless the anomalies and corruption in the BRTA and the traffic division of the police are removed.
The former police boss said, “It doesn’t need an expert to figure out that most of the vehicles on our roads are unfit. Also most of the drivers of these vehicles are plying on roads without any valid license. They keep driving just by greasing the palm of the traffic police.”