People are dying like birds and flies due to lack of discipline on the roads and highways. That's why, the much-talked-about Road Transport Act, 2018 has come into effect on November 1. The new act has brought lots of changes in terms of fine and punishment. For example, the maximum penalty for driving without licence is six months in jail or a fine of Tk 25,000 or both. But in previous law, the maximum punishment for driving without licence was four months’ jail or Tk 500 fine or both. Although the amount of fine and punishment is too much compared to previous law, is it enough to bring discipline on the roads? The answer is "Big NO" because law without proper implementation is considered as impotent. We can use different mechanisms to ensure discipline on the roads and highways.
Firstly, unskilled drivers are a main reason behind the lack of road discipline as well as fatal accidents in Bangladesh and many people who have full driving licences have actually never taken the driving test in Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA). Therefore, providing driving licence to unskilled people needs to be punished to ensure road discipline.Secondly, remarkably a driving licence from now on will contain 12 points under the new Road Transport Act. If any driver loses all 12 points for committing offences like not using a seat belt, using a mobile phone while driving, driving on the wrong side of the road and racing, reckless driving and misbehaving with passengers, and parking vehicles at the wrong place, driver's licence needs to be cancelled immediately regardless of his/her social identity.
Thirdly, to install traffic cameras at all major points are now urgent need so that any vehicle in violation of the rule under new law gets photographed, thus providing proof of the violation and fines imposed accordingly.
Fourthly, fuel stations will not provide CNG or octane to vehicles, if the drivers are unable to show a valid “fitness” certificate.
Fifthly, drivers and pedestrians have no idea about road safety behaviour. Safety on the roads and pavements need to be taught from a very young age and adults should set an example. People are continuously crossing a very busy road without using foot over-bridges located in few metres away. Therefore, mass awareness about new Road Transport Act and road safety behaviour needs to be developed among people with a slogan "Paths are for people; roads are for vehicles".
Finally, the decision to implement Road Transport Act is highly appreciated because it is an initiative that brings changes in 36-year old law which has failed to regulate modern transportation systems in Bangladesh. For proper execution of the law, the government should robustly monitor the traffic police activities how they ascertain fine and punishment for drivers and pedestrians under this new Road Transport Act-2018.
The writer is an Assistant Professor, School of Business Ahsanullah University of Science and Technology, Email: [email protected]