One year has elapsed since the Road Transport Act 2018 has come into force across the country to bring traffic order on roads, but the new law is yet to produce any positive results.
Reckless driving, illicit race betweenvehicles, ignoring stoppages on the marked spots and picking up passengers and dropping them off in the middle of roads are a regular phenomenon.
“Now, we are filing cases according to the new Road Transport Act 2018,” Md Munibur Rahman, additional commissioner (traffic) of Dhaka Metropolitan Police, told the Daily Sun.
While asked about the condition of bringing order on the roads, he said, “We’re trying our best for brining order on the roads.”
After a countrywide student movement in 2018 for road safety, there were radical changes in the management of public transport in the capital. The Road Transport Act 2018 came into force on November 1, 2019.
But, the traffic chaos is still prevailing on the roads. Things have remained more or less the same.
Police and Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) tried in various ways, including filing cases, fines and imprisonment, to restore order on the roads, but all goes in vain.Many accidents happen every day across the country, including the capital, due to reckless driving and competing with other vehicles. Passengers are sometimes killed for not paying any heed to road safety.
Buses do not stop at the marked stoppages. In most cases, passengers are being picked up and dropped off in the middle of the roads not from bus stops. As a result, the number of accidents is constantly increasing.
According to the rules, the bus doors must be kept closed after leaving the designated places or bus stops. When you reach another stop,
you have to open the door. But the transport is not complying with any of these.
Khandaker Enayet Ullah, general secretary of Dhaka Road Transport Owners’ Association, said, “Many instructions have been given to transport drivers, owners and helpers to restore order on the roads. One side alone cannot be blamed for this. Even then, we have greatly reduced the number of accidents.”
The Road Transport Act was passed in the parliament on September 19, 2018 in the face of the ‘Safe Road Movement’ after two college students were killed in a bus crash in the capital on July 29, 2018.
After the deaths of the two students, police launched a traffic discipline week and traffic discipline fortnight several times with a view to bringing discipline on the roads and encouraging people to follow traffic rules.
But in reality, no visible progress was seen after several traffic awareness campaigns by police across the country.
Public transport sector experts said that bus drivers and helpers as well as passengers are responsible for the chaos in the city’s public transport. That is why the parties concerned are urging to bring both the parties under the rules.
Transport specialist and BUET teacher Professor Md Shamsul Hoque said, “The condition of public transport system of Dhaka is in dire condition. To save it, police cite their own weakness and with the attention from the IGP level but it couldn’t work. That means it doesn’t in the condition to be work or effective. Because, planning is full of faults, planning faults cannot be fixed with enforcement,” he added.
“Where the police could not fix it, if anyone said it is still can be fixed. Then we should give a strong message in this place.”
During visit to the busiest road in the city, Farmgate-Banglamotor, it was seen that no bus stops at the stop marked at the corner adjacent to Bangla Motor intersection of Panthakunj Park. On the other hand, passengers are being picked up from the middle of Bangla Motor intersection and road.
The same picture is of Malibagh-Rampura road. Passengers were seen running on this road and getting into a moving vehicle in the middle of the road. Male passengers as well as women are in the competition to get on buses. Many pedestrians said this is the everyday picture on the road every day.
Nur Uddin, a driver of Balaka Paribahan on the Gazipur-Sayedabad route, said: “As soon as the intersection comes up, passengers started shouting to get down. Then we can't take him to the stop even if we want to.”
“Again, we are driving through the middle of the road, but from the sidewalk, the passenger sees the bus on his/her scheduled route and starts running behind the bus. Then we were forced to stop the car in the middle of the road and pick them up. Then if an accident happens, we are responsible for it,” he added.
A bus driver of Projapoti Paribahan said the same thing. Sariful Islam said, “All the responsibility is only ours! If passengers do not get off at the designated place, or do not get up from the designated place, then we cannot force them to get on or off. People don’t want to walk a little after get off the bus.”
Many transport experts believe that reckless drivers are the main reason for the increasing number of road accidents in the country.
“Bus drivers drive more recklessly and aggressively when they fail to make their targeted number of trips because of traffic jams, and gridlock cuts into their income,” they added.
Khandaker Enayet Ullah said, “Bus franchises are being launched to reduce accidents. From April 1 next year, pilot-based franchise management will be introduced on the Ghatarchar-Motijheel route. Then the transport system will continue like Hatirjheel.”
BUET Professor Md Shamsul Hoque said, “Those who are supposed to understand it, they are giving hope. They are compounding the problem and making it unmanageable. As a result, we are at the bottom of the livable city in the midst of so much achievement. The wrong steps are being taken.”
“The government is spending a lot of money through wrong steps. If this money was spent in scientific way then we would have gone to a new city,” he added.
According to Accident Research Institute (ARI) of the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) -- at least 3,558 people were killed and 4,450 injured in 3,064 accidents in 2020, while 4,358 were killed and 7,240 injured in 3,937 accidents in 2019.
Meanwhile according to the police statistics, at least 3,918 people were killed and 3,826 injured in 4,198 accidents in 2020, while 4,138 were killed and 4,411 injured in 4,147 accidents in 2019.
So, the number of fatalities decreased by 5.3 per cent and injuries by 13.2 per cent in 2020 compared with those in 2019 while the number of accidents increased by 1.2 per cent in 2020, as per the police.