Despite a plethora of promises and commitments, legislation and endless assurances by functionaries at every level of the administration to make roads safer for the users, people continue to lose lives and limbs in high numbers. Perhaps “accident” is not quite the right way of defining the situation prevailing in this sector. What we witness on the roads and highways in Bangladesh is near anarchy caused by often deliberate carelessness of the drivers and gross negligence of the owners, and perhaps it is they who should take the lion’s share of the blame for the deaths and injuries and for employing untrained drivers and unfit vehicles on the roads.
The situation has been well encapsulated in the latest report of an organisation that represents the stakeholders who are usually the worst sufferers in road mishaps, the Jatri Kalyan Samity. The report presents a very frightening statistic—that there was nearly a 10 percent increase in the number of deaths in 2019, although the number of accidents was almost the same. Each day, 21 people were killed.
While the administration may not agree with the statistics, the report should not be dismissed out of hand, as it often happens. We feel that there are a few important facts that emerge from the report which the administration should take cognizance of. For example, it is worth noting that there have been more deaths on regional roads than on the national highways. The fact that 56 percent of the deaths occurred due to victims being run over by vehicles and nearly a third of the mishaps involved trucks and covered wagons should provide pointers to the planners on what they should focus on. Very few would take issue with the causes of the accidents pointed out in the report. And those should be addressed earnestly, if the poor state of road safety is to be improved.