Before the heat of nationwide student protests demanding safe roads could cool down, we are again witnessing a fresh wave of gratuitous loss of lives in road accidents. It was hoped, the flurry of activities among transport owners, labour leaders of the sector, government ministers concerned and high law-enforcement officials that followed the massive youth outbursts would bring some concrete results; the rods would finally be rid of avoidable human tragedies. But things did not turn out that way.
True, the talks between the various government departments concerned and the transport operators’ representatives did come up with recommendations as well as promises to discipline the sector and make the roads safer for the public.Seeing the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA)’s pre-Eid drive against unfit vehicles and drivers without genuine licence, the public wanted to be reassured.
But the optimism proved to be short-lived. Hardly a week had gone by when the same old sights of reckless driving and chaos on the highways returned. It cost some 259 lives between August 16 and August 28.
The August 26’s horror of Natore road crash that took 15 lives was followed two days later by the Kushtia video showing a driver’s utter disrespect for human life. His bus pushed and killed a child in her mother’s arms. The incident shocked everyone.
It appears the student movement and the government actions that came in its wake have hardly impacted the behaviour of the transport operators. The word that the transport owners gave after the student protest that the system of contract and target setting for the drivers that lie behind road rage would be abolished seems to have conveniently been forgotten.
It is time the government put its foot down. The law-enforcers need to be ruthless in the application of law against the errant drivers. The prime minister’s June directives that include limiting driving time as well as the provision of keeping extra drivers on the long routes must be implemented without delay. At the same time, the government, the different stakeholders and experts should continue the dialogue to find a foolproof answer to the curse of our accident-prone road traffic.