Sunday, 29 May, 2022

Murder on Roads: Who is Responsible?

Murder on Roads: Who is Responsible?

I went to my village on the Eid holidays. Two days after Eid, on my way back to Dhaka, I saw a terrible accident in Dhamrai area. I was stunned to see that. My mind was heavy. Just at that moment, I heard another piece of news over my mobile phone. I was informed that my close relative (my wife's cousin) had died in a bus accident in Natore. He was a BCS officer. I could not stay still after hearing the news. A few days ago, my uncle lost his life in a road accident. How can so much grief be tolerated? There is much talk about road accidents but there is no outcome. It is very difficult to find a single day when there are no casualties in road accidents. The procession of death on the road seems to have become very normal. There is no way to pull the reins. Like every time, this year also 75 people were killed in road accidents on Eid day, while 20 others on the day after Eid. Among others, 31 bikers and riders lost their lives during Eid holidays. The big question is why the cause of the road accident is not solved when everyone knows it. Several steps have also been taken to prevent road accidents. But the situation has not changed much, rather deteriorating gradually. Where is the fault then? Will it continue like this? Who will take the responsibility for killing people on the road?

Most of those killed on the roads are children, young people and working people. There is nothing new to say about the immense suffering an untimely death of a man brings to his family. The state also has to bear the loss of road accidents. Aiming to improve the situation, several initiatives were taken following the road safety movement started after two students of Ramizuddin College were killed in a road accident in 2018. However, they did not bring much success as the problems are deep-rooted. Road and transport mismanagement has reached such a stage that no one can eliminate it overnight. Those who use the road regularly know the level of indiscipline on the road. Analysis of the number of road accidents has shown that about 80 per cent of the drivers are inexperienced, incompetent and uncertified. Bus helpers drive for hours on the highway. Who will take the responsibility?

The road monitoring system in our country is very weak. Accidents can be multiplied if there is no discipline on the road. Mixed and different speed vehicles are plying the roads in our country. These include buses, trucks, tempu, private cars, microbuses, motorcycles, bicycles, rickshaws, vans, leguna, vatvati, nasimon, karimon, easy bikes and many other types of transport. There is a mess in the street and everyone is involved in an unequal competition. And the ruthless victims of this death are ordinary people. But how can the anarchy on the road be handled? Bus and truck drivers consider themselves kings on the road. They do not seem to have time to notice other cars or pedestrians. Vehicles are stuck in long traffic jams on the road and as a result, the drivers lose their patience and become intolerant. When they get a chance, they start running vehicles at a reckless speed. A survey has found that 80-90 percent of road accidents occur due to excessive speed and reckless behaviour of the driver. A driver may try to save time by speeding, but his reckless thinking robs him of his precious life.

Long-distance buses ply the roads uncontrollably. Also, local buses pick up passengers standing here and there. Cars are parked in the middle of roads to pick up passengers and this resulted in severe congestion. No one seems to see it. Buses rush to pick up passengers. This creates chaos on the roads. Time is wasted. And to cover this time drivers drive recklessly. The question is where do drivers get so much courage? If strict action would have been taken against them for breaking the rules, it would never happen. Drivers are forced to adhere to discipline on roads in developed countries. They have no chance to commit irregularities. But here we see a different picture. How can the drivers be out of punishment even if they kill people indiscriminately on roads? The culture of impunity seems to have intensified the anarchy on the roads. Not only are road accidents fatal, but many are also injured or crippled, lead a miserable life and become a burden for their families. There is also a lot of financial loss. According to a survey, 40,000 crore taka is wasted annually due to road accidents, which is 2-3 per cent of the total GDP.

In fact, there is no alternative to taking drastic measures in this regard. The number of road patrols and traffic police is not enough in our country. The number should be doubled. Violators of road discipline should be subject to exemplary punishment. After an accident in our country, it is known that someone other than the real driver was driving the car. But why is it not known before the accident? We have weaknesses in the checking system. I do not think there is any weakness in the road transport law. But there are weaknesses and mismanagement in enforcing that law. We should follow the management of the countries where road accidents are very rare. Most accidents happen when the car is involved in overtaking competition. Patrol police can play an effective role in stopping unwise overtaking. Even one-way lanes are causing severe traffic jams lately. But that is not supposed to happen. On the other hand, pedestrians’ reluctance to use sidewalks or footbridges is a deadly tendency. Even after specifying the speed limit on roads, some drivers disobey it. No one seems to see these. Corruption is further weakening our transport and road management. Due to corruption, drivers often get away with doing wrong. To keep life safe on the road, corruption must be curbed.

When the only earner in the family loses his life, the whole family is in great danger. So, everyone needs to be aware. Those involved in road management need to play a much bigger role. Road accidents should not be considered mere accidents but should be treated as road killings and severe punishment should be ensured. The BRTA needs to show more responsibility. Strict care must be taken to ensure that a driving certificate is not readily available. Unplanned hat, bazaars and shops on busy roads should be evicted. Those who have the power to restore order on the road need to be more responsible. Patrol and checkpoints in the capital need to be further increased. In general, it is not possible to control road accidents without a concerted effort. Today our roads have become like a death trap. The state must take all necessary steps to make it safe. Road transport cannot be held hostage by transport workers. We have a very old culture of blaming each other. But someone has to take the responsibility for this murder on the roads. The state apparatus cannot avoid this responsibility even if it wants to, because the main responsibility of restoring order on the road belongs to the state. The state must take the toughest possible steps. The state has to show zero tolerance to reduce fatalities on roads.

The writer is an Assistant Professor, B A F Shaheen College Kurmitola, Dhaka Cantonment

Source: Sun Editorial