We are deeply saddened to learn that at least 26 people died in road accidents across the country during the three-day Eid vacation. Four more died on Wednesday. Estimates from some other news outlets put the overall number at 35, with the number of the injured running into dozens. Road casualties during Eid festivals are perhaps no longer a surprise. In the past years, we have been consistently bombarded with reminders of the dangers of Eid-time journey, each year mirroring the previous year in terms of deaths and injuries for which a familiar litany of reasons is cited: reckless driving, lack of monitoring on highways that draw a high number of travellers during this time of the year, overcrowding, underage and/or unlicensed drivers, unfit vehicles, etc. But the problem persists like an insoluble puzzle.
According to an estimate by The Daily Star, 31 people died during the Eid-ul-Azha holiday in 2018, 29 in 2017, 32 in 2016, 30 in 2015, 26 in 2014, 10 in 2013, and 40 in 2012. Clearly, we have failed to learn from the past. However, the road transport and bridges minister claimed that the numbers of accidents and casualties were comparatively lower this year, but admitted that “there were some mistakes and we will take lessons from those.” We find that hardly assuring given the unconvincing track record of the transport authorities. The government has failed to introduce tougher legislation to control the chaotic road transport sector and taken little effective action to ensure road safety.
It is high time the government took serious steps to curb road accidents, not just during Eid vacations but at all times. The government should ensure that all vehicles pass the fitness test, that all drivers are qualified to drive and have valid licenses, and that they respect traffic rules. This Eid, the increasing number of motorcycles and three-wheelers on the highways was cited as an emerging problem. These things should be factored into road safety plans moving forward. In any case, the highways must be monitored and patrolled by the police so that accidents can be prevented more effectively.