Seeing the horrible form of road accidents in the country, it seems that human life has no value. Death processions are constantly going on in the highways of the country and nobody knows where it ends. A road accident shatters a family’s dream and it brings irreparable damage to the family, society and the state. Various initiatives and steps have been taken at different times to prevent road accidents but the reality is completely different. Accidents are not decreasing at all but increasing. The causes of road accidents have been identified many times and steps have been taken accordingly but we have not seen the proper implementation of those steps. There is no way to deny the weakness of road management despite blaming various causes for road accidents. No effective steps have been taken yet to ensure road discipline. About 34,000 people have died in road accidents in the last five years.
According to the statistics of Passenger Welfare Association, in 2015, there were 6,581 road accidents in which 8,642 people were killed and 21,850 people were injured. In 2016, a total of 4,312 road accidents took place in which 6,055 people were killed and 15,914 injured. In 2017, the number of road accidents was 4,979 and 7,397 people lost their lives and 16,193 people were injured. 3103 road accidents occurred in 2018 and 4,580 people were killed and 7,425 were injured. In 2019, there were 4702 road accidents in which 7855 people were killed and 13330 people were injured. According to the Road Safety Foundation's annual report 2020, in 2020, 4735 accidents took place and 5432 people lost their lives and 7379 people were injured. In the last 15 years, 55,000 people were killed in road accidents across the country and over 77,000 cases have been filed Road accidents on the one hand take the lives of people and disable many people at the same time cause extreme financial losses. The financial loss due to road accidents is around 40,000 crore taka per year and the country is losing 2/3 % of GDP per year. According to the statistics of Passenger Welfare Association and ARI, BUET, 37% of accidents occur due to reckless attitude of drivers. 53% of road accidents occur due to excessive speed of vehicles and 10% of road accidents occur due to other reasons. 72 per cent of the people killed in road accidents in the capital are pedestrians. An average of 18 to 20 people die every day in road accidents across the country.Despite spending a lot of money to upgrade the highways to four lanes, road accidents are not decreasing. Experts have identified the reasons behind road accidents. They are: 1. Uneducated, incompetent and untrained driver 2. Defective vehicles 3. Poor traffic management 4. Unconsciousness of people 5. uncontrolled speed 6. Lack of proper enforcement of law 7. Lack of punishment 8 Authorities' indifference 9. Insufficient zebra crossings 10. lack of proper sidewalks 11. overcrowding 12. infrastructural weaknesses 13. mixed traffic on the roads 14. Overtaking tendency 15. Excessive fatigue and drowsiness of drivers 16. Driving in the opposite direction 17. reckless speed 18. unloading passengers unwisely 19. Overloading of vehicles 20. Inadequacy of road dividers and speed breakers. Besides, unplanned hat-bazaars are constantly being held along the highways. Pedestrians always cross the road as there are markets everywhere on the side of the road. In addition to all these factors, the trend of using illegal U-turn has been noticed in recent times. Dangerous turning or diversions on highways are one of the leading causes of road accidents. The banned autorickshaws, Nachhimon, Karimon, Bhatavati are seen plying regularly on the highways which are one of the major causes of road accidents. There is a huge shortage of the kind of surveillance that the authorities are supposed to have on the highways and there is a shortage of manpower. Road accidents are happening due to lack of regular surveillance in accident prone areas. Trucks and large vehicles are often parked on highways, which is one of the leading causes of road accidents.
According to road transport experts, there is currently no alternative to implementing the Road Transport Act 2018 to control road accidents. Experts also say that proper enforcement of the law and proper coordination between government agencies on highways can reduce the number of accidents. Experts have repeatedly called for the safety of highways, but little progress has been made. Road safety investments need to be increased to save people's precious lives and boost economic growth.
Accurate information is needed to prevent road accidents but unfortunately often accurate information on road accidents is not available. Actor Ilyas Kanchan, who has been campaigning for safe roads for a long time, said, "We all know more or less the reasons behind road accidents but there is no initiative to solve them." The current picture of road accidents would not be wrong to call it an epidemic.
After road accidents, many cases are filed and the investigation committees investigate but there is hardly evidence of the criminals being brought to justice. Road accidents are recurring because the perpetrators are not punished. Teenagers took to the streets after the death of a classmate in a road accident in 2018 and they demanded at the time to control road accidents. That movement touched the conscience of the nation and then the Road Transport Act was amended and enacted in 2018. Ordinary people today have become hostages to organized transport workers and owners. It is the will of the workers and the owners to drive and to do as they please, regardless of the discipline on the highway.
A master plan and the goodwill of the authorities are needed to control road accidents. The authorities concerned have to increase strict surveillance so that untrained drivers cannot drive in any way.
Manpower needs to be increased to monitor vehicles on highways and banned vehicles will not be allowed on the roads under any circumstances. Corruption is considered as one of the reasons behind road accidents.Corrupt officials often take bribes and issue car fitness certificates and driver's licences.
An integrated initiative is definitely needed to restore order on the roads. Strict supervision should be increased so that drivers cannot drive recklessly. Unplanned and illegal hats and bazaars on both sides of the highway must be removed. Separate lanes for the same speedy vehicles should be provided as mixed vehicles are one of the leading causes of road accidents. Sometimes drivers drive while intoxicated which is one of the leading causes of road accidents. Drivers sometimes talk on their mobile phones while driving and they must refrain from that. Drivers and passengers need to ensure seatbelt barriers that can reduce road accidents. Supervise the speed limit of the vehicle and ensure that the driver is compelled to drive at a certain speed. The tendency of drivers to obey traffic laws in our country is very low and this tendency must be increased at any cost. Surveys show that AC vehicles have less number of accidents because they have efficient drivers and well-controlled speed. If the highways are not made safe then this kind of road accident will continue which is not desirable at all. A driver drives a car for a long time which must be stopped. If a driver has the training skills and drives with a cool head and obeys the traffic laws then road accidents must be controlled.
The writer is an Assistant Professor, B A F Shaheen College Kurmitola,