Tuesday, 18 January, 2022

How many more students to die on roads?

There has been an alarming rise in road and highway accidents in Bangladesh over the past few years. Every day working people and students are losing their lives while commuting, becoming statistical numbers as accident victims. According to the report of the World Health Organisation, 21,316 people lost their lives in road accidents in Bangladesh in 2015. According to the Bangladesh Passengers Welfare Association, 6,642 people were killed and 21,755 injured in 6,561 road accidents in 2015. In 2016, 6,055 people were killed and 15,914 injured in 4,312 road accidents. In 2017, 7,397 people were killed and 16,193 injured in 4,989 road accidents. In 2020, 6,006 people were killed in 4,791 road accidents during the year despite a long holiday of educational institutions due to corona infection. Of these, 608 were students and 541 were children, which accounted for about 19 per cent of the total deaths. It is seen that 43,756 people were killed and 91,356 people were injured in 31,693 road accidents in the last eight years. Even in 2021, the number of road accidents has been increasing rapidly in the last few months. School-college-university students are most of the casualties in this death procession.

Recently, two such incidents had taken place in the capital. One Naeem Hasan, a second-year high school student of Notre Dame College, was hit by a garbage truck of Dhaka South City Corporation at Gulistan in the capital. After four days of this incident, Mainuddin Islam, an SSC examinee of Ekramunnesa School, died on the spot, hit by an Anabil bus at Rampura Bazar in the capital.

These horrible and unpleasant accidents are not tolerable in any way. One accident after another has been happening due to reckless driving. This will not stop until those who are responsible are handed exemplary punishment. Can we not get rid of it, or will people continue to be held hostage by reckless drivers? Despite innumerable write-ups, processions, meetings, seminars, road blockades, demonstrations, protests and recommendations, the number of deaths on the roads are increasing day by day, instead of decreasing.

Various initiatives are being implemented to reduce road accidents around the world centering on the road safety decade. As a result, visible progress in road safety is being observed in many countries. But Bangladesh has not made any proper plans to achieve this goal. Road safety experts say the plans to reduce road accidents are conventional and need updating. There is no exact explanation of what has been achieved and what has not been achieved or what needs to be achieved to reduce road accidents in the country.

In the developed world, road accident prevention plans and decisions are very specific. But in Bangladesh, the plans and their implementation are done on an ad hoc basis and hardly followed up. How many accidents and deaths will be reduced in how many years, how it will be achieved, who will make it successful — all these need to be clarified. Without specific goals and due responsibilities assigned, it is not fair to expect that the number of accidents will be reduced if you speak new words every day or distribute leaflets on the streets. Weak law enforcement, chaos in traffic, reckless attitude of drivers and owners of buses will continue to keep the roads insecure.

I demand that the election promise of the present government to ensure safe roads be implemented on an urgent basis. Besides, the budget for road safety programs should be increased, public awareness should be created through research, meetings, seminars, publicity campaigns and extortion on roads should be stopped. The regulatory body BRTA and the traffic department need to stop irregularities and corruption. Getting a driver's licence after proper training and testing should not take years. It is also important to ensure transparency and accountability of government agencies by curbing corruption in road construction and maintenance.


Subrina Obaid Anika,  a student of Bangla

Department, Jagannath University