Special Feature

National Safe Road Day: Safe road far off

21 Oct,2018

BDchronicle:
Government directives, higher court orders and countrywide student protests — all have gone in vain as safe road still remains limited to empty words of those in authority, observe road safety campaigners. 

Even prime minister’s directives, backed by those of the higher court, administration and law enforcers went unheeded as the authorities failed to bring traffic management under a uniform system and public transport system under discipline, they say. 
‘Discipline in road transport sector and on road — I did not succeed in these two works,’ admits road transport and bridges minister Obaidul Quader.
‘As road minister I admit this. I have tried but failed,’ he told a programme in the capital on Sunday where he said that discipline in road transport sector and road was not only a demand of time but also ‘tears of time’. 
Against this bleak backdrop, the government is going to observe National Safe Road Day today for the second time with the slogan ‘Ain mene cholbo, nirapad sarak gorbo (we’ll follow law, will build safe road)’. 
People’s deaths in road accidents, mainly due to reckless driving by untrained, unlicensed and underage drivers, have become a daily phenomenon.
Violation of traffic rules by all sections of people, lack of public transports and facilities for pedestrians, movement of unfit vehicles, irregularities in government bodies meant to check problems in the sector and transport owners’ attitude to make maximum profits still dominate the road sector. 
The prime minister on June 25 gave directives to ensure drivers’ rest every five hours, alternative drivers for long distance transports, training facilities for drives and their assistants, use of seatbelts while travelling and going by traffic signals. 
Most of these still remain on paper only. 
Thousands of students took the streets after two Shaheed Ramiz Uddin Cantonment College students were killed by a reckless bus in the capital on July 29. 
The government on September 20 enacted the Road Transport Act, 2018 in the wake of the protests. 
Bangladesh Police conducted a countrywide traffic week and Dhaka Metropolitan Police observed a traffic month but still violation of traffic rules is the norm. 
Nirapad Sarak Chai chairman and initiator of the day, Ilias Kanchan, told BDchronicle on Thursday that safety on roads was yet to be ensured. 
The main spirit of the day was to make the authorities and people aware about road safety issues and the situation improved a bit even in rural areas, he observed. 
After 47 years of independence, however, there were still no systems and professionalism in road engineering, traffic management and transport business sectors, he lamented. 
‘The newly enacted Road Transport Act or fines against transport workers or owners cannot do anything alone unless everything is brought under a uniform system,’ Ilias thinks. 
Mentioning the road stretch between Kuril and Rampura, he said there were no facilities for pedestrians to cross the road which forced pedestrians to cross the road illegally risking their lives. 
But on airport road, traffic police were asking these pedestrians to follow rules in crossing roads, he mentioned.
A common system has to be established everywhere, otherwise the long-time habit of people would not be changed, the road safety campaigner noted. 
‘We do not know or follow the rules of using roads and even we show our power by not following the rules,’ he said. 
He blamed Bangladesh Road Transport Authority for not checking the conditions of vehicles and licences of drivers and also the owners for not having garages and providing facilities to their drivers. 
He urged the authorities in all public and private organisations and teachers to discuss people’s responsibilities in using roads. 
National Road Safety Council member and Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology’s civil engineering professor Shamsul Hoque said that nothing had been done to ensure safety on roads and raise awareness among people. 
‘After such a big incident (student protests), people were shocked, transport owners, people and police and even prime minister Sheikh Hasina came forward, huge number of cases were filed and fine realised but everything remains the same,’ he wonders, adding, ‘It means we are yet to locate the root cause of this anarchy.’ 
As per the professor, chaotic public transport system was the main obstacle in the way of safe roads in the country. 
‘We are yet to bring public transports under a system,’ he said, adding, ‘if anarchy remains in public transport sector, no initiatives will be successful.’ 
The government was talking about long-term infrastructural development initiatives while still no public transport-oriented safety measures were in sight, he observed. 
Road transport and highways division secretary Md Nazrul Islam told BDchronicle on Saturday that the overall situation in road safety improved in the recent years. 
‘It is not possible to establish cent per cent safety on roads,’ he said, adding, ‘Compare with past times, we have achieved many things.’ 
BRTA data, prepared based on first information reports of the police, shows that 2,513 people were killed and 1,898 injured in 2,562 accidents in 2017. Till April this year, 874 people were killed and 489 injured in 848 accidents, it added. 
At least 7,397 people were killed and 16,193 injured in 4,979 road accidents in 2017, says a report compiled by Passenger Welfare Association of Bangladesh.
According to World Health Organisation, in Bangladesh about 21,000 people are killed in road accidents every year. 
Since August 1, 2015, road transport and bridges ministry imposed a ban on three-wheeler and non-motorised vehicles on 22 national highways.
The HC’s directive to the road transport ministry and the police, issued on August 3, 2015, to keep unfit motor vehicles off the roads across the country was never enforced.
About 20,500 secondary schools - with participation from all students and teachers - across the country are going to hold a massive awareness campaign on road safety on Monday as per a Directorate of Secondary and Higher Education directive. 
Different programmes by government and non-government organisations are scheduled to take place today for observing the special occasion.

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